"Falling Through the System": The role of the European Union captive tiger population in the trade in tigers


"Falling Through the System": The role of the European Union captive tiger population in the trade in tigers

30 September 2020
Weak legislation and limited checks on private captive tiger facilities across the EU and the UK provide significant opportunity for tiger parts, such as skins and bones, to enter illegal trade, according to a joint report from WWF and TRAFFIC.

Based on an analysis of CITES trade data (1), the EU and the UK continue to trade in live tigers and tiger parts and products with countries where tiger farms are known to feed the illegal tiger trade, such as China, Thailand, and Viet Nam. 

Between 2013–2017, a total of 103 live tigers were directly exported from the EU and the UK and 84 live tigers were re-exported, all with legally obtained, government-issued permits. Of these, a total of 43 live tigers were exported or re-exported from the EU and the UK for commercial purposes (as opposed to non-commercial purposes, such as for research or zoos). The EU and the UK have also been implicated in the illegal trade of tigers, with 95 reported seizures involving various tiger parts and products, as well as live tigers, in the same time period.

Commercial exports are taking place despite the restrictions set out in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including Decision 14.69 which states tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and products

“The trade of captive tiger products not only complicates enforcement efforts, it also legitimises the use of tiger products and can stimulate market demand,” said Heather Sohl, Tiger Trade Leader at WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “European countries have been rightly vocal on the need to close tiger farms in Asia, but they too are an unlikely player in the global trade in tigers. Securing the future of wild tigers means addressing the issue at home, which is why the EU and the UK must urgently start with a ban on the commercial tiger trade.”