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, and 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 7,000 today.
Zoos, circuses and sanctuaries have
about 500, the remaining 6,500 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" that
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 vanish
into the trade.
This is an American problem of
animal abuse, not a wildlife conservation problem.