Maßweiler, 27 July 2023 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, with the support of the Czech Ministry of Environment, has successfully transferred a one-year-old white female tiger cub from Czech Republic to its TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary in Germany on 26 July. Last year, Charlota had been confiscated by the Czech authorities from a private person who posted videos of the rare white tiger on social media. She was temporarily housed and cared for at a local zoo. The young tigress is one of thousands of big cats that fall victim to the commercial illegal trade in Europe every year.
Charlota was transferred from Zoo Hodonín via road transport. As the zoo was only a temporary solution for the tiger cub, the Czech authorities requested FOUR PAWS to take over the care of the animal. To ensure her wellbeing, a wildlife veterinarian accompanied her along the way.
After the owner posted videos on social media, the Czech CITES Enforcement Authorities discovered the illegal keeping in 2022, leading to an investigation and seizure of the tiger cub. The Czech police are still investigating the tiger's origin, as legal proceedings are ongoing. Currently, it is only legal to keep a tiger in the Czech Republic with proper documentation proving legal origin and acquisition of the specimen. According to the Czech CITES National Legislation all tigers have to be registered by the competent Regional Management Authority. Moreover, the keeping of tigers is subject to permission granted by the competent veterinarian bodies in the Czech Republic.
“We are delighted that Charlota has arrived safely at her new home in Germany, where she will now receive all the care she needs and grow up in an environment that fosters natural behaviours of tigers. We thank the Czech authorities for their swift actions in rescuing Charlota and support their efforts in protecting tigers. We will offer our continued support to the Ministry of Environment in finding sustainable long-term solutions for tigers and other big cats suffering a similar fate to Charlota’s, in the Czech Republic and across Europe. Wild animals do not belong in backyards or private homes. The cruel exploitation of big cats must finally end now.”
FOUR PAWS CEO Josef Pfabigan
Czech Republic: Tiger trade hotspot
FOUR PAWS helped identify the Czech Republic as a hub for illegal tiger trade in 2018, revealing transactions between Czech traders and Vietnamese traffickers. Since then, FOUR PAWS has collaborated with the authorities to address commercial breeding and trade of big cats in and from the country. In 2021, FOUR PAWS significantly contributed to the draft of an EU Tiger Guidance document to prohibit such trade in the European Union. The Czech Republic, alongside Slovakia, championed this initiative during EU Member States expert meetings, resulting in the European Commission's adoption of the Guidance in April 2023.
Czech Minister of the Environment, Petr Hladík (KDU-ČSL), says: “Since 2018 we have been adopting stricter domestic measures limiting trade and keeping of tigers in the Czech Republic. These measures together with huge efforts demonstrated by law enforcement agencies has led to a decrease of this illegal trade, but there is still more to be done – as the story of Charlota shows us. One of the crucial ways to support enforcement and help put an end to illegal tiger trade, would therefore be proper implementation of the new EU Tiger Guidance into the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations limiting trade in tiger specimens only for legitimate purposes for conservation of the species.”
“The EU Tiger Guidance, once properly adopted by the Member States, will be a vital step in curbing the trade of captive tigers and halting their commercial use, including private ownership. Inconsistent legislation among European countries enables easy purchase and cross-border movement of tigers, contributing to their presence on social media and as status symbol pets. To effectively combat illegal trade, a comprehensive ban on commercial breeding and trade of tigers within Europe and all Member States' jurisdictions is necessary to support enforcement efforts,” says Barbara van Genne, Director of the Wild Animal department at FOUR PAWS.
White tigers are often purposely inbred for commercial value
White tigers and lions belong to the same species as their normally coloured counterparts, contrary to a common misconception. Their white fur is caused by a rare recessive mutation, not albinism. While this mutation does occur naturally in the wild, its expression requires both parents to carry it. Consequently, white tigers and lions are rare in their natural habitats. However, in captivity, they hold commercial value due to their appeal to visitors, leading breeders to purposefully crossbreed animals carrying the recessive mutation. Unfortunately, this practice often involves inbreeding, which affects the health and wellbeing of the animals. As a result, captive white tigers and lions frequently suffer from growth abnormalities, such as crossed eyes, as in Charlota’s case as well.
TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary
TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary, which is run by FOUR PAWS in Maßweiler, Germany, provides a species-appropriate home for big cats that were rescued from poor conditions in zoos, circuses or in private captivity. TIERART houses and cares for numerous native wild animals such as foxes, badgers, wild cats, hares or hedgehogs. In 2021, the first sanctuary for orphaned lynx opened on the grounds of the sanctuary. Many of the native animals that are taken in at TIERART receive medical care and are released back into the wild once recovered. Animals that cannot be released back into the wild and exotic animals like tigers find a permanent, species-appropriate home.
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