WWF considers the illegal trade of tigers to be the greatest immediate threat to the conservation and survival of this animal. With fewer than 4,000 tigers in the wild, demand for tigers and their parts is pushing these animals closer to extinction. While wild tigers are found in just 13 Asian countries, the illegal wildlife trade of parts and products from captive tigers comes from all corners of the globe.
New findings show that weak legislation and regulations on captive tiger facilities across the European Union and the United Kingdom are helping to fuel this illegal trade. Despite protection of tigers under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the EU and UK continue to trade in live captive bred tigers and tiger products with countries where tiger farms are known to feed the illegal tiger trade, such as China, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
There were a total of 111 direct exports of tigers from the EU between 2013 and 2017, 103 of which were live tigers, and a total of 165 EU tiger re-exports, 84 of which were live tigers. The data is part of a new joint report by WWF and TRAFFIC that investigates the domestic legislation, policies, and related enforcement regarding the keeping, breeding, and disposal of tigers and their parts in the EU.
The report, Falling through the system: The role of the European Union captive tiger population in the trade of tigers, found weak regulations, compliance checks, and no comprehensive system for monitoring captive tigers across the EU and UK. Inspections of facilities are infrequent, and the procedures to dispose of tigers after they die are weakly legislated without comprehensive government oversight. In many countries, private individuals and/or circuses can still keep tigers. Loopholes exist and must be addressed at the national and EU-level to ensure tigers and their parts do not enter the illegal wildlife trade.