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As the "Year of the Tiger" begins, countries around the world have begun to focus on their tiger populations with the goal of preserving the threatened species. An estimated 3,200 tigers exist in the wild in Asia, where they are threatened by habitat loss and poaching fueled by demand on the traditional medicine market.
But in the United States, even more tigers are kept in captivity—untracked and unregulated.The World Wildlife Fund reports that the U.S. government:
Does not track how many tigers are in captivity within its borders, where they are, who owns them, or what happens to their body parts when they die. In many states, there are no controls on individuals keeping tigers as pets.
More that 5,000 tigers are thought to be held in captivity in the United States, far more than exist in the wild. The WWF says that a registration and management scheme for these animals is urgently needed to support the efforts of other countries around the world.
Sybille Klenzendorf, Director of the WWF-US Species Program, explained:
We may not get another opportunity like this with so much political will from the tiger range countries and attention from so many institutions and people around the world...the situation for tigers is a sobering one, but if we seize this moment and maintain it for the long term, the next Year of the Tiger may give us real reason to celebrate.
Tiger-range countries committed to a draft plan that would call for a doubling of the global tiger population by 2022. A final plan will be agreed upon at a summit in Vladivostok in September.
Read more about tigers:
Fewer than 50 Wild Tigers Left in China, Says Wildlife Conservation Society
Tiger Conference Ends with Mixed Results
World Bank Calls for the Closure of Tiger Farms
13 Countries Meet to Save Endangered Tigers
Fading Tiger, Climate Dragon