Commercial farming of tigers is nothing more than thinly disguised wildlife trafficking that’s officially sanctioned by the Vietnamese Government.
While tiger farming is presented as “conservation”, the facts of the industry do not bear scrutiny as recent Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) research has borne out. Far from protecting an endangered species, there is little doubt now that commercial farming of tigers is instead accelerating the wild population’s rate of extinction.
Badly framed legislation, lackluster enforcement and abuse by farm operators in Vietnam – one of whom is a twice convicted wildlife trafficker – do nothing to protect the cat family’s most endangered species.
Figures produced by ENV in 2015 make for a depressing read. In their 10 month investigation of 26 commercial farms across Vietnam the NGO found that all of them that had been involved in illegal wildlife trading. The probe also revealed widespread abuse of the farming regulations and bribing of officials.
As the wild tiger population in Vietnam teeters on the brink of extinction – there are only 30 individuals believed to inhabit remote border regions – the Vietnamese authorities are far from blameless in the tiger’s potential extinction. Dogged by inaction and lacking the political will to take the problem of wildlife trafficking seriously, the Vietnamese authorities are in grave danger of sealing the fate of the tiger.
With few controls to curb inbreeding among farmed tigers and the illegal taking of wild tigers to pass off as farmed animal numbers, time is running out for the big cat. Vietnam is also a major transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade, and only decisive action can halt those who profit handsomely from the lucrative wildlife business. It is now, therefore, firmly in the hands of those who enforce the law to “do the right thing” and stamp out the evil trade.
What is abundantly clear is that the tiger in Vietnam is in crisis and ham-fisted conservation measures that backfire are not the way forward.
On the evidence gathered by ENV there can be no argument to justify commercial tiger farming. The reality is that despite its ostensibly noble conservation motives, what is happening in reality is quite the reverse. We can no longer sit idly by. It will be this generation that determines the biodiversity of the future.
That is an onerous responsibility. The poorer our biodiversity, the poorer we are as a society. Do we really want to hand our children and grand children a ravaged world where wildlife has been consigned to mere pictures in history books?
* This is an opinion piece I penned for Education for Nature – Vietnam