Sunday, October 24, 2010

United States' Captive Tigers- Victims of the Black Market

A captive tiger in the U.S

A recent analysis released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC showed that weak regulations on captive tigers in the U.S could be constituting to the million dollar trade in tiger body parts in the black market. It has been estimated that 5,000 tigers are kept in the United States as pets. According to Leigh Henry, senior policy officer of WWF's Species Conservation, the illegal trade in body parts derived from captive tigers activates the demand for the ones from wild tigers. He further added that a nationwide database is crucial to guarantee that tigers in captivity do not end up as folk medicine or souvenirs. In American states where there are no laws or regulations, WWF and TRAFFIC warn that captive tigers are often kept in horrendous conditions.

In the U.S alone, eight states have no such laws whatsoever on tigers in captivity, while 17 others allow keeping the animals with a state permit or registration. At the same time 28 states have laws banning possessions of tigers in private collections. Among those include Oregon, Iowa, and Washington. Unfortunately, they have systems to regulate tigers that were grandfathered in prior to the law of the bans. In addition to that, there are also several exceptions, exemptions, and loopholes to the enactments that makes it impossible for federal agencies to maintain the current inventory of tigers in the country. There is also lack of sufficient state or federal regulation which makes it difficult to determine what happens to the tigers' body parts when they die.

To tackle this problem, WWF has issued an online tool that allows users to learn about their states' regulations in captive tigers and how weak oversight puts both captive and wild tigers along with human safety at risk. In addition to that, WWF and TRAFFIC have recommended that the United States should establish a central reporting system and database for all captive tigers within the nation's borders without any exemptions or exceptions. The groups further recommended that any person or a facility owning a captive tiger should report on the number of animals held, births, mortality rates, and transfer or sale. The two groups also advised that any tiger death should be reported immediately, and the carcasses should be cremated by a licensed facility. Finally, WWF and TRAFFIC stated that state and federal agencies should be given financial resources to conduct undercover investigations to rub out markets for tiger parts and find any international smuggling attempts.

I'm very impressed to see that the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC have reached out to the U.S government, and gave some useful ideas on how to help combat the international trade of tiger body parts. In the U.S, there have been several cases of tigers being kept in captivity and it is surprising to see that they are also victims of the black market as well as their wild cousins. However, I also feel that those states which do not regulate in captive tigers should start joining forces with their neighbors who are very strict in their regulations and cooperate with other nations around the world. This way, the process of the illegal trade in tiger body parts will slow down.

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