The demand for tiger skins, teeth, bones, claws and meat is perpetuated by the legal and illegal supply of parts from captive tigers. There are more than 8,000 captive tigers in China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and South Africa. Facilities range from small backyard holdings to circuses, from collections masquerading as zoos to battery farming-style operations holding more than a thousand tigers.
The preference among many consumers for authentic wild specimens means that wild tigers and other big cats are still poached. Governments should have phased out these tiger ‘farms’ following an international agreement in 2007; instead, the problem has escalated.
The number of captive tiger facilities in tiger farming countries has increased and, while a minimum estimated 41 per cent of tigers seized from illegal trade since 2010 are suspected to have come from captive sources, it has not relieved pressure on wild tigers, with populations being wiped out in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam since 2010.
Many of the individuals and networks engaging in captive tiger trade are also involved in other illegal activities such as trade in ivory, pangolins and rhino horn as well as other organised crime.