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Tiger Trade and Captive Breeding Farms

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s (DSWF) position on the trade of tiger parts and captive breeding farms.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

In the last 100 years, tigers have lost 96% of their historical range with only around 4,000 remaining in the wild. The increasing demand for tiger skins and derivatives has pushed this iconic species to the brink of extinction.

The growth of human populations and competition for land use throughout prime tiger habitat has exacerbated the crisis. Captive breeding farms, with numbers of animals surpassing their wild counterparts, have been established to try and satisfy the growing demand.

However, the creation of these farms has failed to alleviate poaching pressures and merely encourages demand for wild poached tiger parts as a premium product. With increased availability and access to tiger parts and derivatives, a new consumer market has formed and further stimulated demand.

Furthermore, the high costs of breeding farms alongside the perception that wild tigers are purer, make them even more desirable to consumers over their captive counterparts.

As a result, DSWF actively campaigns for and works to support:

  • A total ban on the international trade in tiger parts and derivatives
  • The closure of all tiger breeding farms
  • The legal market for captive tiger parts makes differentiating their source impossible. The system also provides a perfect guise to launder illegally sourced products and complicates an already hard-to-monitor system.
  • The recent demand in lion bones as an alternative to tiger bones further emphasises the dire trajectory that tigers are on towards extinction.
  • When it is illegal to trade tiger parts, the issue is simply one of law enforcement. An uncontrolled and poorly regulated legal market becomes a social, political, and economic nightmare. One that is impossible to monitor!

What are tiger parts used for?


For hundreds of years tiger parts and derivatives have been used in unethical and unsubstantiated medicinal practices, due to the belief they cure disease and replenish the body’s essential energy. The use of tiger parts for medicinal purposes is also associated with wealth and as a status symbol in Chinese culture.  Demand for luxury items has also spiked and their skins are often turned into rugs, which fetch high prices with consumers.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Do breeding farms reduce incentives to poach wild tigers? 

It was thought, sadly naively, that the creation of captive breeding farms would reduce poaching pressures on wild tigers.

By creating a managed and harvested resource to satisfy consumer demand, the justification that there would be no further impacts on wild tiger populations, was part of the validation for establishment.

However, the sad reality is that captive breeding farms have failed to alleviate poaching pressures and, on the contrary, stimulated them.

Wild tigers are still perceived to be purer and more powerful, and due to the high costs of breeding farms, wild tigers remain cheaper on the black market for purchase – despite being sold on to consumers for higher prices.

What threats do captive breeding farms pose to wild tigers?

Captive breeding farms offer a perfect guise for illegally poached wild tigers to be laundered into the legal market. With lax law enforcement, breeding farms complicate an already hard to monitor system and create large hurdles for conservation efforts.

With a parallel legal market, the issues surrounding the trade of tigers become social, political, and economic. With a total ban of all trade, the issue would simply be one of law enforcement and demand reduction, which could be much more easily monitored.

Captive breeding farms also encourage the belief that tiger parts and derivatives hold medicinal value and perpetuate the trade, rather than endorse the stigma that tigers are not to be bred for consumption or trophies.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Theo Bromfield

What is currently legal and illegal?


China banned the domestic trade in tiger bone in 1994, but their trade in tiger skins and tiger bones from captive breeding facilities continues under a permit system, stimulating demand for their body parts worldwide. Globally, there are approximately 8,500 tigers in captive breeding – more than double the total world population of wild tigers.  The majority of these are in China but there are also significant numbers in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and even South Africa.

Please donate to help us end the brutal tiger trade.

You can support our work to save endangered animals from extinction by adopting today.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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