Big Cats in Captivity: Rescue and Advocacy - United States
There are more tigers in captivity in the United States than there are in the wildSee project
As apex predators, tigers play an important role in maintaining a balanced food web in their ecosystems. In the absence of their natural predators, prey species populations can explode, leading to overconsumption of vegetation, damaging habitats or prey species expanding into human settlements. And if prey populations become so large that they exceed the capacity of their habitat to provide enough food, starvation and illness can result.
Where do tigers live?
Southeast Asia, China, Russia
Asia, grasslands, savannah, rainforests
In the wild, tigers are at a tipping point. Habitat loss, wildlife trade, urban development, poaching and persecution as a result of human-wildlife conflict threaten their survival.
In the United States, the private ownership of captive big cats has become a threat to the welfare of tigers. Across the country, there are more tigers in backyards, houses and roadside menageries than remain in the wild globally. Keeping dangerous carnivores in enclosures with unregulated or weakly regulated safety standards also puts the public at risk.
IFAW works closely with partners, governments, and local communities to secure a better future for tigers. In India, we work with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with Assam Forest Department to help protect tigers living in Kaziranga National Park. Annual floods displace animals, regularly causing tigers in the park to seek out higher ground for safety – often near or within neighboring communities. Our teams rescue tigers in need and provide them with lifesaving veterinary care.
In 2018, the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online was launched, bringing together companies from around the world with wildlife experts at IFAW, WWF, and TRAFFIC to develop an industry-wide approach to reducing wildlife trafficking online. Since its inception, the online technology companies in the Coalition have removed or blocked over three million listings for endangered and threatened species, including live tigers.
Since 2003, IFAW has rescued 189 captive big cats and placed them in true sanctuaries. In 2017, IFAW established the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance (BCSA), a network of legitimate sanctuaries that do not buy, breed, sell, exploit, or trade animals. The BCSA works to end the exploitation of big cats, and its member sanctuaries cooperate to ensure that captive tigers can be placed in true sanctuaries immediately following rescue.
At the federal policy level, IFAW is working to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act. This legislation would bring an end to the private ownership of big cats in the United States and prohibit dangerous, inhumane direct contact between the public and captive big cats.
Tigers play such an important part in maintaining ecological balance, and they face many human-made threats. But you can help – donations help fund our conservation programs and projects around the world. Make your 100% tax-deductible donation today!