There Are More Tigers In Captivity In America Than In The Wild Across The Entire World

by : Hannah Smith on : 14 May 2021 15:06
There Are More Tigers In Captivity In America Than In The Wild Across The Entire WorldPA Images/boxing.connoisseur/Instagram

As the search goes on for a missing tiger that escaped from a Houston suburb, it’s come to light there are more tigers roaming around the United States than most people realise.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, there are more tigers living in captivity in the United States than there are in the wild throughout the entire world.


An estimated 3,900 of the endangered big cats remain in their natural habitats. By comparison, the WWF says there are around 5,000 tigers in the United States, although given many may have been smuggled illegally or bred domestically, the true number is actually likely to be a lot higher.

There are more than 5,000 tigers in the United States (PA Images)PA Images

Even more surprisingly, only about 6% of that number are actually kept in accredited zoos, with the rest in breeding facilities, theme parks, roadside attractions and even ordinary backyards.

Speaking to CNN, the WWF’s director of wildlife policy Leigh Henry said, ‘The United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.’


There’s no federal law banning ownership of exotic animals, and while 20 states have laws against keeping larger animals as pets, in plenty of places – including Texas – it’s actually perfectly legal to own exotic wild animals as long as you’ve got the proper paperwork.

Knowing just how many tigers are roaming around the United States doesn’t make seeing one loose on a suburban street any less of a surprise. But apparently, escaped tigers are also more common than people realise. According to a certain Carole Baskin, over the past 30 years there have been more than 800 incidents involving loose tigers and other exotic cats across the country.

In an interview with CNN about the missing Houston tiger, the Tiger King star and founder of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue said that although it may be legal in some places, keeping a tiger as a pet is generally not a good idea. Aside from putting humans in danger, privately owned tigers are often mistreated and exploited by their owners.


‘No tiger belongs in a backyard or basement,’ she said. ‘The only reason that people have tigers as pets is to try to show off to others.’

And if US lawmakers have anything to do with it, Baskin may soon get her way. Following the success of Tiger King, US lawmakers introduced a bill banning unlicensed owners from keeping exotic pets. The Big Cat Public Safety Act was recently introduced in the Senate after passing in the House in December.

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Topics: Animals, America, Carole Baskin, Now, Texas, Tiger King, tigers, US


  1. CNN

    There are more tigers in captivity in the US than in the wild