Farmed to Extinction (Part 2) Tigers

Updated: Apr 5

Filled with raw power and strength, the tiger is an iconic big cat species. Written into stories, painted on murals and in some parts of the world - revered and worshipped. Ferocity and grace can be linked to many big cats around the world but the tiger encompasses these two aspects with a wholeness rivaled by none. 2022 is the year of the tiger but the actual conservation of this animal in some of its home ranges is nothing to celebrate. This month I'll be talking about the second animal in my farmed to extinction series. The link to the first instalment is here if you missed it

Tiger in its natural habitat


Although these big cats are revered in some parts of the world, in most of their remaining territory, tigers are still being poached to extinction. Poachers lay hidden snares down or they use baited snares which includes a chunk of meat to lure them in. Poachers will also physically go out into the forested areas and shoot tigers with rifles. They may also be targeted by villagers who poison the cats as retaliation for hunting their livestock.

Tiger poaching is still an ever present problem


Farming of these majestic creatures is barbaric and wrong from any angle we look at it. There are two types of tiger breeding facilities. The first entails large basements or other such rooms behind lock and key. The rooms are filled with small cages with malnourished cats kept in the dark. Some farms which may be located in or near urban areas expose additional stressors such as smells and sounds from dogs, cats, cars, humans or even air pollution. A recent raid into one of these basements showed exactly this revealing how the cats cower away, afraid and malnourished in the corner of their cages from the light of the authorities torch beams. They are bred for the bullet and their sole use is for parts.

Tiger being used for amusement of tourists

The second type of facility is in the public eye. Large zoo like areas where locals and tourists pet tiger cubs and sometimes even feed them. However, as the cubs grow older, they become more aggressive and harder to handle. Once this happens the tigers can either be bought by buyers or straight to the customer behind closed doors. Some adult tigers may be kept at the facility to keep up the charade that it is caring for tigers or aiming to release them into the wild. They may call themselves tiger sanctuaries. Let’s get one thing straight: THESE TIGERS WILL NEVER BE RELEASED INTO THE WILD. More lucrative farms may have areas off limits to the public where larger enclosures can contain twenty to fifty animals or more of these big cats living together.

The majority of these farms can be found in Thailand, Loas, Myanmar, Cambodia and South Africa (tigers are bred alongside lions for canned hunting). Tiger populations are dropping in the wild and so lion bones are being substituted for tiger bones and this is linked to the canned hunting franchise. At the moment the wild population is roughly 3,900 individuals in the wild. This number has grown from an estimated 3,200 in 2015.

Lions and tigers are used in canned hunting in South Africa

Included in these countries is North America. It has been recorded and studied that there are more tigers housed in zoos and other wildlife parks across the United States of America than in the wild itself. I think by now everybody may have heard or watched the hit series on Netflix called Tiger King. Well, there are hundreds of Joe Exotics out there doing the exact same thing. All of these fall under the same banner as Wildlife sanctuary. An estimated 5000 captive tigers live in the United States of America.

Farmed tigers often live in poor conditions


The items made from poached or farmed tigers include skins as rugs, tiger wine, tiger glue or tiger balm which is ground or fermented tiger bones made into a paste. It is then supposedly used to heal multiple ailments which is based on no scientific evidence at all.

As stated in the book Poached by Rachel Love Newer, there is a true nose to tail approach. Whiskers suppress toothache, meat cures malaria, fat stops vomiting. Blood strengthens will power, nose sooths children’s epilepsy, teeth purge sores on a man’s penis, eyeballs and bile prevent convulsions and penises expel impotence will also promoting longevity. However, it’s the bones that are the most wanted product of all. Today, tiger bones are used for tiger bone wine where traditionalists believe that it is a cure all tonic. This ranges from traumatic injuries, aging, osteoporosis, fatigue, rheumatism and recently a vitality booster. Teeth and claws are also sometimes sold as souvenirs to unknowing tourists. Most, if not all of these products are illegal so they are usually sold in dodgy back allies or under the table purchases in remote stores.

Products made from tiger parts

Another recent study has shown that clients prefer the products of wild poached tiger bone glue, or cao hổ as it’s known locally, is the main driver of the illegal tiger trade in Vietnam. It’s made by boiling down tiger skeletons to a gluey paste that users then infuse with wine. Along with other animal parts such as ivory and rhino horn, tiger parts are also identified as a social status object. Opposing cultural values which influence motivations, attitudes, and beliefs are seen to be important factors in the interpretation of preferences for wildlife goods.

Through interviews with 228 buyers and potential users of tiger bone glue, researchers found that clients overwhelmingly favored products derived from wild tigers rather than farmed ones.

“Most of the buyers we interviewed prefer tiger bone glue from wild tigers over farmed ones because they believe wild bones are more potent,” Hoai Nam Dang Vu, a doctoral candidate at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the new study, told media.

What needs to be done

Tiger farming is not the answer and never was. While activism and awareness about tigers is crucial, it’s not enough. More in situ and ex situ government cooperation is needed to shut down tiger farms. Along with this more law enforcement on the ground preventing poaching and tracking down traffickers is the most important. All these tools need to be implemented so that we don’t come close to the tiger’s last roar.

Lets keep these majestic big cats in the wild and safe


Coals, P., Moorhouse, T. P., D’Cruze, N. C., Macdonald, D. W., & Loveridge, A. J. (2020). Preferences for lion and tiger bone wines amongst the urban public in China and Vietnam. Journal for Nature Conservation, 57.

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