The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today called on Asian states to close their tiger farms to boost efforts against the black-market trade in animal parts. The conservation group said there remained 200 tiger farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.
The tiger population in farms is about 8,000, more than the estimated 3,900 living in the wild, WWF said in a statement ahead of the July 29 International Day of the Tiger. Many tiger farms have been implicated in the hugely lucrative but illegal trafficking market.
The so-called “Temple of Tigers” in western Thailand was closed in May after Thai wildlife officials discovered dozens of dead cubs inside a freezer. The universal closure of such farms was crucial, WWF said, because “their existence undermines efforts of countries to protect cats living in the wild and creates demand for products made of tiger parts.”
WWF drew a clear distinction between such farms—which are only known to exist in Asia—and zoos that strive to create acceptable conditions for tigers to live in a controlled area. A hastily-organised blanket closure of all tiger farms would however be disastrous for the animals, WWF said.
Tigers living in farm-like captivity have become habituated to human presence and cannot simply be released in the wild, the group said. It said a tiger resettlement plan needed to be in place before the farms were closed.
At a conference in St Petersburg in 2010, 13 Asian countries agreed to double the number of tigers living in the wild on the continent by 2022, which is China’s next Year of the Tiger.