Tigers In America: A Review
Tigers are charismatic and compelling animals, beloved by many animal advocates, not only for their understated majesty, but for their potential as a flagship species that can inspire conservation action. Of course, tigers are also valued by poachers and practitioners of traditional medicine; this among other factors such as habitat loss and retaliatory killing, has led all tiger species down a path of extinction. Wild tiger numbers are slowly ticking upwards around the world, but after many years of decline, they are still very precarious.
In this study from 2014 which we are now able to share on our site, Faunalytics partnered with Tigers In America to measure and evaluate current knowledge and opinions relating to captive and wild tigers. The online survey took the opinions of about 1,200 U.S. adults, and asked them various questions about the population, living conditions, and welfare needs of tigers, as well as whether or not they have any personal experience with the species.
Overall the results of the survey show that, perhaps unsurprisingly, misinformation reigns. 77% of adults have seen tigers, and 78% of those sighters were at large/city zoos. However, despite this exposure through supposedly conservation-promoting institutions, 82% of U.S. adults think there are more than 5,000 tigers living in the wild around the world (the real number is around 3,500). Meanwhile, 61% of people believe there are 1,000 or fewer captive tigers in the U.S., while the number is actually closer to 5,000. That’s right: there are more tigers being held captive in the U.S. than there are in the wild around the world.
Fortunately, the survey provides some encouraging news for advocates: 87% of respondents think that keeping and breeding tigers as pets in the U.S. should be illegal. In terms of their actual captivity, 54% think a captive tiger should have at least 10 acres of space… something which many regulated and unregulated zoos simply cannot or do not provide.
For wildlife advocates, endangered species advocates, and advocates for animals in zoos, the survey shows that people are generally misinformed about the state of tigers in the U.S., and this could very well extend to other species of similar concern. However, the study also shows that a good majority of people seem to want what’s best for tigers, and the study offers numerous leverage points with which advocates could engage the public on these issues.