EARTH DAY 2021 HOW MANY ASIAN TIGERS ARE IN CAPTIVITY IN SOUTH AFRICA
EMS FOUNDATION COPY OF OPEN LETTER TO MINISTER CREECY
22ND APRIL 2021
Tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) are included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which assembles 183 Parties, including South Africa.
On several occasions since early 2016 we had been asking your Department (DFFE) if it knew the number of Asian tigers in South Africa and if they monitor and audit the facilities in South Africa that keep Asian Big Cats. They continuously and consistently replied that they do not have any information as tigers are ‘exotics’ and therefore not their responsibility. This despite the fact that they are CITES Appendix I animals.
In 2016 CITES Decision 17.229 forewarned the Parties that the Secretariat was going to conduct a review of the number of facilities keeping Asian big cats in captivity in the territories of Parties and the number of Asian big cats kept in these facilities; and to review legal and illegal trade in Asian big cats from or through such facilities to identify any facilities which may be of concern.
On the 16th February 2018 we became aware that the CITES Secretariat has issued a Notification to the Parties to seek such information from the Parties, we emailed your department on the same day asking if they had this information available and the reply was, “we will be communicating with Secretariat on how we will deal with this matter as you can appreciate that there are 9 Provinces in South Africa and we have to coordinate the information”. On the 28th February 2018, together with Ban Animal Trading, we sent a letter to the CITES Secretariat in relation to Decision 17.229. Appended to our 2018 letter to CITES was a non-exhaustive list of 66 facilities/individuals keeping tigers in South Africa that we were able to trace as a result of internet searches and on-site investigations.
According to DFFE, in response to an EMS Foundation Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request1 there are 72 facilities/individuals keeping 451 Asian big cats in captivity.2
This information has not been independently verified. Nonetheless, it is clear that South Africa is allowing intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale.
The increasing trade in tigers and tiger parts is part of the unsustainable growth in the legal global wildlife trade. The The commercial flow of captive-bred tigers is largely driven by the increasing demand for live tigers and tiger parts and derivatives from Asia. This demand is therefore one of the most important factors for the current high levels of tiger poaching, captive breeding, and trafficking. Any trade in captive-bred specimens from South Africa is having an indirect but significant impact on tiger species whose populations are already depleted. In addition, allowing such trade obstructs global anti-poaching and trafficking endeavours.