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USFWS Strengthens Protection for Captive Tigers

05 April 2016 | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release

In an effort to strengthen protections for certain captive tigers under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized a rule declaring that captive “generic” tigers — tigers of unknown genetic background or crosses between two different subspecies of tigers — are no longer exempt from certain permitting requirements.

Anyone selling tigers across state lines must now first obtain an interstate commerce permit or register under the Captive-bred Wildlife Registration program regardless of whether it is a generic tiger or a pure subspecies.

“Removing the loophole that enabled some tigers to be sold for purposes that do not benefit tigers in the wild will strengthen protections for these magnificent creatures and help reduce the trade in tigers that is so detrimental to wild populations,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “This will be a positive driver for tiger conservation.”

The wild tiger is under severe threat from habitat loss and the demand for tiger parts in traditional Asian medicine. Once abundant throughout Asia, today the species numbers only 3,000-5,000 animals in small fragmented groups. As a result, tigers are protected as endangered under the ESA and under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – the highest levels of international protection. Tigers readily breed in captivity, however, and the number of captive tigers in the United States alone likely exceeds the numbers found in the wild, although the exact number is currently unknown.

The Service has worked with international partners to implement measures that ensure wild tigers survive in their native habitats and that captive tigers do not contribute to the illegal trade in tiger parts.

While this new rule does not prevent individuals from owning generic tigers, extending the permitting or registration requirement to all tigers strengthens the Service’s efforts in addressing the illegal wildlife trade, both domestically and internationally. This rule results in a uniform policy that applies to all tigers and will help Service law enforcement agents enforce the ESA.

The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on April 6, 2016, and will go into effect 30 days after publication on May 6, 2016.

For a copy of the final rule, please go to and click on 2016 Final Rules for Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

The Service is working with multiple partners to conserve tiger populations, supporting groups engaged in efforts to fight poaching, establish nature reserves, manage human-wildlife conflict and raise public awareness. In 2015, the Service awarded funding to 24 projects benefiting tiger conservation in 10 countries totaling more than $1.2 million, which was matched by $993,330 additional leveraged funds. To learn more about the Service’s International Affairs program, visit:

The ESA is an essential tool for conserving the nation’s most at-risk wildlife, as well as the land and water on which they depend for habitat. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of the species listed from the brink of extinction and has served as the critical safety net for wildlife that Congress intended when it passed the law 40 years ago. The Service is actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more about the Service’s implementation of the ESA, go to


Vanessa Kauffman

For more information about endangered species go to
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For more information about endangered tigers go to Tigers In
Find organizations saving endangered tigers at Saving Endangered

Tigers in Crisis is Produced by Endangered Species Journalist Craig Kasnoff

to Promote the Plight of Endangered Tigers and the Efforts to Save Them.