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 these cats.
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 to go.
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.