It took 2 million years for the tiger to evolve into the biggest and
most majestic cat in the world. In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in
the wild now only 3,000 remain. A tragic loss by any measure but
many people are aware of it.
What people are not aware of is how
many tigers exist in this country today. In 1900 the U.S. had 50
tigers held by exhibitors, with the advent of zoos and circuses their
population increased to a few hundred in the 1950s. The population
stabilized in the 1960s when TV and movies lured audiences away zoos
and circuses. But in the 1970s tigers became popular, beginning with
tiger acts in Las Vegas and tigers appearing on television variety and
talk shows. Animal Training became a profession. Tigers were used in
advertising and as celebrity ornaments, the idea of exotic pet
ownership took hold with people believing you could buy and care for
The tiger population in this
country grew from a few hundred to 5,000 today.
Zoos, Circuses and Sanctuaries have
about 500, the remaining 4,500 are owned by Breeders who breed and
sell the cubs, Exhibitors who show them, Dealers who collect the old
cats and deliver them to Dead Zoos that butcher them for parts or
ranches where they are killed in canned hunts. And some are owned by
private individuals who keep them as pets.
There are more tigers in captivity
in America than tigers that exist in the wild.
These tigers were not captured in
the wild and imported, They were bred here and will remain here for
the rest of their lives. They are mixed breeds derived mainly from
Bengal and Siberian ancestors and referred to as "generic tigers" and
have no conservation value and are not regulated by the customary
government agencies. This loophole in the law allows these tigers to
be bred, bought, sold and destroyed without being recorded. The
generic tiger classification along with commercial demand is what
drives the tiger breeding farms and has led to this over population
There is no wildlife habitat in the
US for them and no possibility of introducing them back into the wild
because they have been hand fed since they were two days old and not
able to hunt for food. Zoos will not take them because they are
generic. No one wants or can afford to feed them. They have no place
The vast majority live in small,
concrete and chain link prison cells in conditions that most people
would readily perceive as deplorable. Many die prematurely of disease,
neglect, starvation, being put down when no longer wanted, or shot and
dismembered for their parts.
This is an American problem of
animal abuse, not a wildlife conservation problem.
In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers
in the wild, now only 3200 remain. Threats to their survival are loss
of habitat and prey as well as poaching and poisoning. While protected
by law, poaching still goes on, driven by the market value for tiger
In 1982 the tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP),
developed by Ulysses S. Seal with the Minnesota Zoo, became the first
breeding program developed for captive tigers in North America. Ron
Tilson took the responsibility for managing the Siberian tiger
population in 1987 and has served as Tiger SSP coordinator since 1992.
The success of this program ensures the Siberian
subspecies will exist beyond our lifetimes due to the genetic
diversity and the care provided to the tigers by 91 AZA zoos in North
America that participate in this program.
Unfortunately, also in the 1980s, another form of
breeding developed, backyard breeding. As tiger popularity increased, demand increased, and the
supply in the form of backyard breeders multiplied. Breeding tigers
for commercial use became a business. This breeding was done without
regard to species or record-keeping. Siberian tigers were bred with
Bengals and other sub-species, resulting in what is called "generic
In 1998 the federal Captive-Bred Wildlife
regulations requiring tigers to be registered and tracked were
modified to exempt generic tigers. This was effectively a license to
breed without consequence. It made a bad situation worse and
contributed to the present overpopulation of unwanted tigers in this
The public story presented by
breeders conceals a cruel and avaricious reality. They breed tigers
without any consideration for animal husbandry or genetic diversity.
What is important to breeders is the number of cubs and the color
combinations that might be realized. There are breeders who advertise
new 'American' tiger species: golden tabbies and other stripe color
variations. And then there are ligers, tigons and other strange and
completely unnatural pairings. While they advertise conservation
education and 'saving the gene pool', in reality it is all about the
money: an exotic color or unusual appearance means cash to the
breeders and exhibitors.
These tiger mills breed generic
tigers used for pay-to-play sessions where the public pays to pet or
pose with a baby tiger. Once the cubs are too old to use they are
discarded into the pet trade, warehoused in tiny, barren cells, or
disappear into the black market for tiger parts.
In the wild, a female tiger breeds
about every three years. It takes that long to raise and train her
litter of cubs. Breeders take the cubs from their mothers when they
are two days old; the mothers are bred again as many as 3 times each
year. This takes a huge toll on breeding females and the cubs who rely
on them. Tigers are genetically geared to be the most protective
mothers in the world. After ten years of breeding 20 to 30 litters,
and giving birth to over 100 cubs, the mother tiger is discarded and
usually dies of breast cancer.
Grieving mother tiger in Oklahoma, cubs taken at 2
advertise in print and online.
The $30,000 ad
below is from the June 2011 issue of Animal Finders Guide.
closing decades of the twentieth century saw the rise of a new kind of
"sport" in North America: the canned hunt. Although canned hunts
advertise under a variety of names -- most frequently hunting
preserves, game ranches, or shooting preserves -- they can be
identified by the two traits they all have in common: they charge
their clients a fee to kill an animal; and they violate the generally
accepted standards of the hunting community, which are based on the
concept of "fair chase." In some cases animals may be shot in cages or
within fenced enclosures; in others they may be shot over feeding
stations; some of the animals are tame and have little fear of humans,
while others may be tied to a stake or drugged before they are shot.
But whatever method is used, the defining characteristic of a canned
hunt is that the odds have been artificially manipulated against the
animal so heavily that the notion of fair chase is subverted. (Michael
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests another outlet for unwanted
tigers is canned hunts. This is where they are fenced into a corner
and hunters who pay up to $25,000 are guaranteed to be able to shoot a
tiger. The cats are kept hungry before the shoot and will approach
people for food which makes it easier to kill them. In one video of a
lion canned hunt, a lioness is drawn into close range by luring her
with her own cubs, then shot.
advanced variations of canned hunts provide remote controlled guns
that can be focused and fired from your computer in the convenience of
your home or office.
is no federal law governing canned hunting operations. The Animal
Welfare Act does not regulate game ranches, hunting preserves or
canned hunts. The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit private
ownership of endangered animals and even allows for the hunting of
endangered species with the appropriate permit.
is considered a sport and is legal in this country.
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