Reactive statement on Asian Big Cats
A wild tiger in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans.
© Niladri Sarkar



21 November 2022: The tiger, the largest big cat on earth, is listed on Appendix I of CITES, prohibiting international commercial trade, and is also addressed under a CITES resolution to control the trade in Asian big cats. However, measures to protect the tiger from illegal trade are not universally well implemented and tiger poaching and the illegal tiger trade remain the greatest immediate threat to wild tiger populations. According to a new study by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, over the last 22 years, at least 150 tigers per year were seized in illegal trade as luxury goods, rugs, amulets or supposed medicine.

At CITES CoP19 today, a need for continued focus on tackling Asian big cat trade was recognised, but more could have been achieved: Heather Sohl, WWF’s Tiger Trade Lead said: "On the illegal tiger trade, we are treading water: although we didn’t lose ground today, more urgency and priority through targeted action to improve enforcement and reduce demand is needed to truly address the scale of this threat."

No further measures were taken up by the CITES Committee to help strengthen implementation. Additionally, despite the fact that only five of 31 Asian big cat range states reported on their implementation to combat illegal trade for the latest report as required, these countries that do not report still do not face repercussions which makes progress limited.

The threats posed by trade are compounded by the existence of tiger farms - captive tiger facilities contributing to trade, thus complicating enforcement and perpetuating demand.  Predominantly in Asia, there are over 8,000 tigers in over 300 tiger farms. This threat is underlined by figures for Vietnam, where between 2000 and 2022 an estimated two-thirds of tigers seized were from captive sources. Ms Sohl continues: "Such commercial tiger farms must be phased out and efforts to end the commercial trade in tigers must be ramped up." Therefore WWF welcomes that a CITES Secretariat mission is scheduled to visit tiger farms in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in January 2023, and urges for visits to the other countries with facilities of concern - China, South Africa, Czech Republic, and the US - to be made without delay to review management and controls of such facilities and better understand their role in trade to make recommendations to the CITES Standing Committee meeting next year.

For more information, please contact:

Marsden Momanyi:  / Tel: +254 719784872

Monica Echeverria:  / Tel: +1 (202)378 33 96 (English and Spanish)