How Many Tigers in Texas?

Anecdotal evidence suggests or claims that there are around 5,000 tigers in captivity in Texas, USA. If that were true there would be far more tigers in Texas than there are in the wild in the rest of the world. It is something that is constantly recited on the internet. Is it true?

Well we don't know for sure it seems because there is no requirement for individual people who keep a tiger or tigers in captivity as a sort of pet to register the tiger and facility with the authorities if the tiger is a "generic" tiger. Generic means a tiger of no specific subspecies. In other words a hybrid tiger. Lots of tigers even those managed by specialist people and so called experts are hybrid or generic tigers.

However, we do know the number of tigers that are in USDA licensed facilities (USDA is the United States Department of Agriculture) in Texas.

Lynn Culver the executive director of the Feline Conservation Federation requested numbers from the USDA-APHIS office under the Freedom of Information Act. APHIS is the Animal and Plant Health Inspectorate Service, incidentally.

The answer is that there are "between 259 and 325 tigers living in Texas". The figure will be lower, Lynn says, because the Wild Cat Orphanage is shutting down. That facility has 60 large cats. Where are they going to, though? Are they staying in Texas. If so the figure won't be lower, it seems to me.

Lynn says that there are not lots of non-USDA tigers in Texas. She will address that issue later. Can we guess at the number of tigers in Texas that are not USDA registered? There is also a question mark hanging over the reliability of the USDA figures. Does everyone comply with the law and apply for a license? How well is the law enforced? We don't know. But I suspect that enforcement in Texas is poor. The Texan seems to like deregulation and a laissez-faire attitude. "It's my right to do as I please"..etc.

ABC News seems pretty reliable. They say that as you can acquire a tiger for less than $1000 dollars they fall into the category of an impulse buy! Shocking isn't it. Maintenance is obviously not factored in. Tigers eat a lot. And what about the vet's bills and insurance? Anyway, there are pet tigers in Texas that are outside the licensing process. ABC News author Mike Von Fremd says that the best estimate is 2,000 tigers in Texas. This figure would seem to include the licensed ones. He says most are kept as backyard pets.

Other estimates are often higher at about 4,000. The National Geographic says there are 15,000 big cats in private homes in the USA as a whole. Texans are more likely to keep a big cat than other Americans except perhaps people in Florida and California.

Clearly on these estimates the number of unlicensed tigers far outweigh the number of licensed tigers. These captive tigers serve no purpose other than to please the owner. There is no conservation value. Quite the opposite. Texas tigers are probably or possibly traded for body parts but there is no firm evidence on that. They are certainly traded though. It is plain business and where tigers are business, conservation is thrown out of the window and trampled on.

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