Would you keep a tiger as a pet?
A puppy-sized tiger cub can be bought in the United States for as little as $200, and there are probably about 5,000 such backyard tigers across the country, about the same number of privately owned tigers in China, according to World Wildlife Fund.
That is far greater than the approximately 3,200 wild tigers worldwide, compared to the estimated 100,000 wild tigers a century ago. The growing number of these animals in captivity poses a threat to the species in the wild, WWF reports.
“People don’t realize when they buy a $200 tiger cub that it grows into a full-grown tiger, which means a huge enclosure and costs about $5000 a year just to feed,” says Leigh Henry, an animal conservation expert at WWF. “So you end up with a lot of unwanted animals that are very poorly regulated.”
These unwanted animals are a potent lure to poachers, who can use parts and products from these backyard tigers to sell on the lucrative black market. Because many of these beasts are untraceable — it can be tougher to adopt a dog from a U.S. animal shelter than to sell a privately owned tiger — many wind up in Asia, where tiger parts and products are used in traditional medicine.
The trade in these unwanted privately owned tigers can threaten wild tigers by feeding the market, Henry says.