Europe: EU-countries need to protect tigers better

Encouraging news! This week, the European Union published a guidance document to advise EU member states on how to use the current legislation to support tiger conservation. The international trade in tigers – dead or alive – has brought the iconic big cat species to the brink of extinction.

AAP applauds this initiative to use legislative tools to hinder illegal wildlife trade as much as possible. But the EU should also ban the use of wild animals in circuses and implement an EU Positive List to further improve their protection.

The document underlines the importance of interpreting the trade regulations as strictly as possible. For example, the European Commission urges EU Member States not to issue export permits when it is unclear how the trade benefits conservation of the species. Requests to transfer live tigers should only be permitted if the application comes from a licensed zoo or rescue center like AAP. Tiger parts and products made with tiger parts should only be traded between museums or other educational institutions that have no interest in those items for commercial purposes.

Some quotes from the document showing the concerns of the European Commission:

Illegal tiger trade

‘With an estimated 3,900 tigers reportedly remaining in the wild, illegal trade and trafficking of tigers and tiger parts and derivatives is the primary threat to their survival.’

‘In recent years, there has also been mounting evidence that tigers born and bred in captive facilities are entering commercial illegal trade. Trade routes exist between Europe and Asia, where tigers are (re-)exported to countries that have facilities, which are breeding tigers and are alleged to be involved in the illegal tiger trade.’

‘The most recent analysis of global tiger seizures between 2000 and 2018 shows that specimens, parts and products of at least 2,359 tigers were seized in 1,142 incidents across 32 countries/territories globally. This complicates enforcement efforts and may facilitate the use of (illegally obtained) tiger parts and products and stimulate market demand.’

Lack of harmonisation

‘While most EU Member States only allow licensed zoos or rescue centres to breed and hold tigers in captivity, several EU countries permit tigers to be kept and bred in private facilities, circuses and travelling exhibitions. Four EU Member States currently allow tigers to be used in circuses and allow private owners to obtain licenses to keep tigers. The lack of harmonisation across the EU Member States regarding the rules governing the keeping and breeding of tigers in captivity provides an opportunity for illegal commercial trade.’

AAP is happy with the attention to protecting this vulnerable species. Head of Public Policy Laurens van de Noort: “It is encouraging that the European Commission acknowledges the conservation risks that are involved with the legal keeping of tigers by circuses and private owners. AAP actively supports an EU circus ban and an EU Positive List for regulating the trade of companion animals. These are pivotal to end the suffering of tigers and many other exotic species.

Czech Republic, France, Germany, and Spain are currently still permitting the keeping and breeding of tigers in private facilities and circuses. After years of campaigning by AAP and partners, France and recently Spain adopted new laws to end this. But AAP will not stop pushing until the last EU member state starts protecting exotic animals from suffering in private ownership, entertainment and illegal trade. They deserve to live in the wild and are not commodities for profit.

'Tigers deserve to live in the wild. They are not commodities for profit'
Laurens van de Noort
Head of Public Policy

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