Releasing Captive Tigers

Releasing Tigers - Page 1: Releasing Captive-Bred Species | 2 & 3: Issues Specific To The Tiger |
4 to 9: Xiongsheng Bear & Tiger Entertainment City | 10&11: Tiger Moon Sanctuary

These are the issues which make tiger release difficult. They're problems experts have so far been unable to solve:

Inability to hunt:

In the case of the tiger the mother teaches the cubs how to hunt. If she is in a zoo she has no need to hunt so does not teach the techniques to her offspring. Even if she did want to teach them the basics there is hardly the needed prey wandering around to stalk and kill. On top of this, the chances are very good that the tigress herself never learnt to hunt; her mother and her grandmother were very probably captive-raised themselves.

A very high percentage of zoo tigers reject their young, then cubs have to be hand-raised. As a result, any benefits of contact with the tigress are lost almost at birth.

Cubs that have not learnt essential hunting techniques would simply starve if put back into the wild. Killing efficiently is an art learnt over approximately 18 months. Untaught it does not come naturally and an attempt to disable and kill prey without any prior experience would very probably result in great injury. By expending large amounts of time on each individual, and at prohibitive costs, it may be possible to teach this skill to a limited extent. Any tiger taught in this manner would carry a very high risk of turning man-eater and would need some years of artificial food provided to survive.

Lack of prey species:

The tiger's inability to hunt is only part of the problem. Little is known about the number of prey species in many areas. Before a tiger could be released it would have to be established that the needed large prey existed in big enough numbers to support the new cat, and that the prey would be able to maintain its numbers with a new carnivore in the area. Not enough prey will cause a tiger to move on in search of food.

Human imprinting:

Even if problems of hunting could be successfully overcome there are other issues which may prove even more difficult.

There's the fact that zoo tigers have imprinted on human beings. These two-legged creatures have provided care, food, comfort, security, and treated injuries.

A captive-raised tiger would not be wary of humans, something that is essential if they are not to have an increased chance of falling to the poacher's gun, or approach villages looking for easy prey. This prey can be either domestic stock, or the tiger could turn to attacking villagers.


A third issue is that of captive-bred tigers not knowing how to correctly interact with any wild tigers they met. In captivity, most tigers are kept in groups. To keep them individually, as their wild cousins live, (apart from at mating or when with cubs), would be prohibitively expensive. Because of this group housing the captive animals become more social and would probably tend to try and approach other tigers in a manner the wild cats would find both confusing and threatening.

Almost undoubtedly the result of a meeting with a wild tiger would be death for the for the captive-raised animal. Tigers are very protective of their territories and to introduce a new cat to an area means there will eventually be a challenge, this is particularly true of males.

Small habitats:

Most tiger reserves are actually very small. The Sundarbans is the only reserve large enough to maintain a self-sustainable population of tigers, without at least some undesirable breeding or conflict issues.

Even worse, the Sundarbans is considered the only suitable area of tiger habitat in the entire world which is still large enough to maintain a self-sustainable population of tigers. Most of the world's preferred tiger area is now heavily fragmented. That is just one reason the Sundarbans is so important for conservation.

Outside of reserves, it is often unknown how many tigers are within an area. Adding new tigers to an area where details like this are uncertain would only aggravate the socialisation problems.

 (Continued Page 3)


Releasing Tigers - Page 1: Releasing Captive-Bred Species | 2 & 3: Issues Specific To The Tiger |
4 to 9: Xiongsheng Bear & Tiger Entertainment City | 10&11: Tiger Moon Sanctuary

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Photography With Thanks To Chen Xuefeng (Photo 1)
T.I.G.E.R.S. (Photo 2)
Riverglen Tigers (Photo 3)

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