They're Grrrreat!

Regulating pet tigers


The World Wildlife Fund wants Congress to establish a national registry for pet tigers, arguing that Americans' fondness for exotic pets contributes to the illegal trade in the body parts of these rare animals.

Estimates vary, but there are between 5,000 and 10,000 privately owned tigers in the U.S. These captive animals outnumber the 3,200 that are thought to live in the wild. So why establish a registry? The World Wildlife Fund suggests that "weak U.S. regulations could be helping to fuel the multimillion dollar international black market for tiger parts" used in traditional Chinese medicines. The group also claims pet tigers are a menace to the public.

Yet the World Wildlife Fund's own 2010 report admits "there is no evidence that parts from such tigers are entering illegal international trade." As for the public menace, only 14 people in the U.S. have been killed by tigers since 1990. Nine of them were handlers, one was a zoo visitor, and four were children whose relatives owned tigers.

The U.S. already forbids the sale, export, or import of any products containing tiger parts. And most states already have regulations governing pet tigers, with 28 banning private ownership altogether.