BENEFITS PROVIDED BY PRIVATE CAPTIVE TIGER FACILITIES
Preserve Diversity and Numbers of Tigers
- Protect diversity
- Maintain a buffer against extinction with fully protected animals
There are several important benefits provided by captive tiger facilities. These include the protection of diversity within tigers. In the wild, tiger populations are being reduced and isolated and continue to decline. In many areas, additional isolated populations are being extirpated every year. The role of the tiger facilities serves to not only protect tiger diversity but to maintain a buffer against extinction by maintaining a fully protected breeding population. This is a similar buffer that was successfully used in the Przewalski’s horse to save it from extinction. As we described above, this species was extinct in the wild. Fortunatelly, there were multiple zoos that that still had healthy horses and a plan was designed and successfully done to release these into the wilds of Mongolia. Today there are several herds of wild Przewalski’s horses in Mongolia making it one of the greatest conservation success stories of the 20th century. As the future of tigers in many Asian countries is questionable, it is important to maintain healthy, genetically diverse tigers in captivity so that if this species is extirpated in some areas there is a source from which animals can be reintroduced. Reintroducing large carnivores has many more complications and challenges then horses, however, it is a management option that needs to remain on the table.
Disease Research of Captive Tigers
- Provide opportunity to study diseases that affect wild populations
- Enables sampling of tigers for important studies
- Can monitor individual tigers and their fitness
An important benefit of captive tiger facilities is that they enable research on diseases of tigers. The findings on tiger diseases are important to understand how they may affect wild populations. For research on diseases, the most important determinant of successfully understand how diseases develop, progress, and can be treated is the ability to obtain samples of different tissues, both from healthy and unhealthy animals. These kinds of samples are critical, for example many breakthroughs have been made in the disease diagnostics and treatment of domestic dogs and cats. There are many new breakthroughs in veterinary medicine and genetics that can be now applied to wild species such as tigers. However, in order to do that we need samples from study populations. In addition, as these facilities breed tigers it is possible to track animals and their fitness and also to test various new treatments. When tiger facilities work with scientists we gain the ability to better understand tiger health to identify what factors are important to maintain healthy tiger populations in the wild.
Captive Tigers Enable Biological Research Important for Conservation
- Enable studies on behavior, physiology, and ecology to understand wild tigers
- Increase knowledge in how tigers evolve and Earth’s biodiversity
- Many studies only possible in private facilities because of restrictions in zoos
Another important role and benefit of captive tiger facilities, particularly the private ones that are not managed by the AZA are that they enable research on behavior, physiology, and biology of tigers that is important for both understanding evolution and generating information important for conservation. Research on the physiology, ecology and other topics, can be developed with these facilities that increase our understanding of how tigers will respond to changes they face and identify what factors are most important for conservation. This provides a great benefit not only to conservation but also to science in that it improves our understanding of how species adapt and evolve. This leads also to better understanding of diversity. Many of these important research projects are only possible in private facilities because zoos have restrictions on animal handling. Zoos have a primary purpose to serve the public. However, private tiger facilities that are not AZA members have a primary purpose of maintaining tiger populations in and of themselves, and have more flexibility to enable important research on tigers.
Public Outreach, Promoting Conservation, and Raising Funds or Conservation Activities
- Develop appreciation and love for wildlife in people that will make economic, education, and development decisions
- Promote conservation in voting public that votes
- Raise funds for conservation actions that are needed to protect wildlife
One of the most important roles that private tiger facilities play is to interact with the public and promote conservation, the appreciation for wildlife and nature, and to raise funds for conservation. By seeing the remarkable beauty and power of the tigers, people can develop deeper appreciation and love for wildlife. Many of the people that see these animals in private tiger facilities are not going to ever work directly in conservation, but either do or will go on to work for or lead companies, teach in schools, work on city councils, make development decisions, and work in politics. The connection they make with tigers can influence their future decisions as they consider impacts on wildlife. Their appreciation for wildlife also can have a positive effect be encouraging them to vote for policies that are beneficial to the environment. Tigers are a very charismatic species and tiger facilities can be used effectively to raise funds need for conservation that ensure the protection of not just tigers but the entire ecosystems in which they live. In Asia, one of the major hurdles is finding funds to carry put conservation plans. In many cases, the action needed to protect land and wildlife is known, but without financial support they cannot be implemented. Private tiger facilities have a great record of raising money and finding philanthropic donors to support important conservation and research activities.
As the human population expands, many people have no connection to the natural world. Seeing a living, breathing animal engages those people both mentally and emotionally and helps to create that personal connection.
President, International Wildife Conservation and Education Coalition