How can captive tiger management improve?

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You also have other ‘facilities of concern’ where there’s a risk of illegal activity. Although the authorities conduct frequent inspections at these facilities, everything is checked visually. Individual tigers often can’t be distinguished on sight and the authorities rely on the owner’s records to confirm that the number of tigers on the book matches those physically at the facility. This means swapping and laundering of tigers can easily occur.

Basement operations and other tiger farms can perpetuate and stimulate the demand for the illegal trade in tigers, their parts, and products by continuing to feed consumer demand. This further threatens tigers in the wild and they will continue to be illegally killed as long as there is demand driving the trade.

Q: How can we improve the management of captive tiger facilities in Viet Nam?

A: As I mentioned earlier, all inspections and checks of tigers are performed visually, leaving gaps for illicit activities to exploit. Therefore one area of improvement is to address this.

Having a national database of DNA samples of all captive tigers helps the authorities to definitively distinguish between individual tigers, determine whether tigers have been moved between facilities, and figure out if registered tigers have entered illegal markets.

Adding photographs of tigers’ stripe patterns to this database would also improve the management of these facilities. Each tiger’s stripe patterns are unique, like our fingerprints, and would help authorities identify tigers in the facilities but also tigers that are found in the illegal trade.

Implemented together, a DNA and photographic database would ensure that captive facilities are properly managed and law enforcement agents are well-equipped to identify any laundering and illegal trade of tigers from facilities in Viet Nam.

Q: Has the government and WWF had any success collecting DNA samples and photographs of stripe patterns from any captive facilities in Viet Nam?

A: So far we have collected DNA samples from a total of 44 captive tigers at three facilities.

Our last visit was to two facilities in the southern part of the country, just a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam’s largest city. Our work at the first facility went well, although there was some convincing to get the owner to allow us to dart their white tigers because they mistakenly thought ‘white tigers are not the same as orange tigers’.



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