At least 8,000 tigers are estimated to be held across more than 200 tiger farms in East and Southeast Asia. That’s more than double the number of tigers left in the wild. Tiger farms are facilities that breed tigers for commercial sale or trade of tiger parts. Most of the captive tigers are located in China, with the remaining animals spread almost exclusively between Thailand Lao PDR; and Vietnam.
WWF believes the current crisis of captive breeding operations within tiger farms is a threat to wild tiger populations in two significant ways:
- The movement (or leakage) of tiger products from tiger farms to consumer markets complicates and thus undermines enforcement efforts aimed at identifying and stopping the trade in wild tiger products.
- Tiger farms help perpetuate (and grow) demand by legitimizing or normalizing the demand for tiger parts in a region currently experiencing profound and sustained growth of consumer classes. Even a modest increase in the demand for tiger products could trigger immense poaching pressures on wild populations.
Leigh Henry, WWF’s Director of Wildlife Policy, recently returned from a trip to China – the country where tiger farms started back in the 1980s. Leigh and her colleagues visited one of the world’s largest tiger farms– the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park – in the northeast corner of China. Here’s what Leigh saw on her visit: