World Tiger Day is a day to celebrate the largest cat species on Earth, to marvel at their beauty and their predatory skills – but it is also a day to commemorate how many tigers, both wild and captive, we have lost to human greed and how many we continue to lose day after day.
Tigers have lost an astounding 95% of their historical range over the last 150 years due to habitat degradation, poaching and prey depletion. This shocking statistic shows that countries and Governments should be working together to conserve one of the world’s most legendary species, both in the wild and in captivity. However, this is not the case. In fact, the tiger trade is a worldwide problem. Across the globe, captive tigers are treated very differently from their wild counterparts and have very few legal protections.
A FOUR PAWS investigation found that within Europe, young tigers were used as photo props in zoos, circuses and ‘sanctuaries’, while cubs were attempted to be sold on social media, and live tigers were being transported across borders for 60+ hours, among many other wrongdoings. The exact number of tigers kept and traded within Europe is unknown, but during our investigations we were able to discover that between 2014-2018, the UK was the number one importer of tiger parts and derivatives, with over half of all imported items in the EU coming to the UK. We were also the second highest exporter of parts and derivatives, and the third highest on the list of seizures of parts and derivatives by EU member states.
As well as this, research conducted by Born Free found that in 2020 alone, licenses were granted for eight tigers to be kept as pets in the UK under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. With a 57% increase in wild cat ownership since 2000, these statistics may only be the tip of the iceberg as they represent those that are registered and licensed – it is believed that there are many more animals being kept illegally without a license.
This World Tiger Day, we must focus on stopping the ruthless tiger trade once and for all and start treating these endangered iconic animals with the respect they deserve.
We can all do our part to stop this cruel trade. With the summer holidays finally here, please make sure you’re not including cruelty in your plans. Activities like cub petting, walking with big cats, and tiger selfies all contribute to the captive tiger trade.