7th October 2019 – Another ruthless tiger trade case in Europe: Research from the global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS shows traders in Lithuania who are selling tiger cubs as young as six-weeks-old, isolated in a dark room, to anyone who is willing to pay 6,000 Euros. They are even publicly advertised online on exotic pet websites. FOUR PAWS research in Lithuania also uncovered brazen willingness to falsify official papers and claims of additional animals that can be illegally trafficked.
“Frustratingly the findings from Lithuania are not unique, the commercial trade in tigers is a multimillion Euro business in Europe, with the EU based dealers also exporting tigers to countries in Asia. The tigers are considered an extremely profitable commodity and we have seen rising numbers of captive tigers kept in Europe and subsequently traded in and out of the region. It is gravely concerning how easy it is to buy a tiger or move a tiger around Europe unchecked.”
Commenting on the findings FOUR PAWS Director of Wild Animals Ioana Dungler
The tiger trade is rife in Latvia, Belgium, Spain, Germany, France, Poland and the Czech Republic. Sadly, this is a legal, widespread trade. Investigations into the Lithuanian tiger breeders show that the traders travel to the Czech Republic several times a month to buy or sell tigers. With current regulations allowing for free trade and movement of this endangered species, it is impossible to know the true numbers of tigers in captivity whether by zoos, circuses or privately kept.
3,900 wild tigers worldwide vs an estimated 1,800 tigers in captivity in Europe
Despite being native to Asia there is a high number of tigers in captivity across Europe with some estimates of up to 1,800 individuals being kept in captivity. These tigers are not part of conservation breeding programmes, but instead they are used in entertainment or kept privately as pets. Many are also traded commercially and even end up being used for traditional medicines or sold for their parts. With over 90% of the worldwide population of tigers having disappeared in the last 100 years and a mere 3,900 left in the wild, the price on their head is high. Each of the six-week old tiger cubs found in Lithuania came with a 6,000 Euro price tag. Worryingly FOUR PAWS research has also uncovered that a dead tiger can be more lucrative and can demand prices of between 10-15,000 Euros, up to three times the price of a six-week-old live cub.
Over 200,000 signatures against the trade in big cats
FOUR PAWS has worked tirelessly on raising awareness on the abhorrent tiger trade and the new findings in Lithuania are another example of why a comprehensive ban in all commercial trade in live tigers and derivatives is needed. Dungler remarks: “If the commercial trade is prohibited the breeding of tigers is no longer lucrative. We need to hit these breeders where they’re most concerned, their pockets. Currently there is greater protection for wild tigers compared to their captive counterparts. This discrepancy has led to a booming trade within and from the EU for tigers, and their parts. To save tigers as a species we need greater alignment in the protection for them all.”
“Big Cat Task Force” to protect endangered wild animals
Last month attendees at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) welcomed the establishment of a Big Cat Task Force. “The task force has been established to improve enforcement, tackle illegal trade and promote conservation of big cats such as tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and leopards. But, with breeders like we saw in Lithuania there is urgent action needed to close the loopholes that are allowing the trade in big cats, especially tigers. The first step is for EU Member states to prohibit the trade of tigers to non-EU countries. Next is a need for closer inspection and enforcement of keeping conditions, permits and relevant paperwork”, says Dungler.