Why tigers cannot be returned to their countries of origin.

Historically, tigers were captured from wild populations, and exported to zoos all around the world for exhibition and human entertainment purposes. During these processes of capture and transport, literally thousands of tigers died from stress, injury and malnourishment, whilst other were killed during barbaric human entertainment shows. As wild population numbers dwindled, and costs of capturing, transporting wild tigers became more expensive and difficult, owners of zoos started breeding with the tigers in their zoos. Over the past hundred years, this has lead to severe inbreeding practises to the detriment of individual animals and sub species as a whole.

Currently there are 6 x sub species of tigers found in Asia facing several threats in the wild, with habitat loss, human animal conflict, poaching, genetic diversity and depleting food sources the most notable. Furthermore, tiger countries of origin are known to be quite poor and citizens suffering as a result of poverty. Add to this an industry known as “Tiger Bone Wine Production” farms, where hundreds of tigers are bred in captivity, only to be either slaughtered or left to starve to death for the purposes of harvesting tiger bone for making wine, extremely poor management regulations of tigers in captivity, highly questionable entertainment practises by zoo and sanctuary owners, are all obvious reasons for not sending rescued captive tigers back to their countries of origin. They will simply be sent to even worse situations of exploitation and cruel exhibition practices. In addition, protecting the genetics of wild populations already under threat, Asian authorities will not allow captive bred tigers into Asia, India etc for fear of such an animal escaping and breeding.

Also, there are more tigers in captivity around the world than in the wild, suffering from various degrees of inbreeding, genetic impurity, malnourishment, physical and emotional issues etc, adding owners not trained and experienced in managing large predators in captive situations, and the problems regarding tigers become even bigger.

Authorities from countries where tigers originated from, will not accept rescued captive tigers from other parts of the world back into their countries due to aforementioned reasons. The fear of genetic contamination of wild species (should a captive tiger escape), their lack of control over local captive tiger facilities, historic cultural beliefs etc are all valid reasons presented for not accepting tigers back into their countries of origin. As a result, returning tigers back to their countries of origin is simply not possible.

This leaves these tigers in an “in limbo” situation, all due to human greed and the exploitation of tigers.

The question thus arises as to what happens to tigers kept in zoos, sanctuaries and wildlife facilities which cannot take care of them anymore due to financial or other constraints? Should they be euthanased or rather rescued and sent to facilities which can take care of them. And, to which facility should they then be sent, how does one ensure they do not suffer even more at the new facility. Tigers in captivity also presents a major problem when it comes to rescues because of the unique and specialised management protocols needed to ensure proper animal care, welfare and wellbeing. They are notoriously unpredictable and dangerous, their social habits are unique, they need lots of stimulation to ensure their emotional wellbeing and feeding requirements demand specific supplements and nutrients.

Jurg Olsen, founder and General Manager of Ubuntu Wildlife Sanctuary NPC, and his animal management team have many years of experience in managing and taking care of rescued lions and tigers. Ubuntu is also internationally recognised as an ethical sanctuary for wildlife species and is not a tourism facility exploiting animals under the banner of a so called wildlife sanctuary. Ubuntu is also supported by the world-renowned veterinarian Dr Peter Caldwell, assisting in nursing compromised captured lions and tigers back to health and giving them a permanent loving home where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace in natural conditions.

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