I have completed a graphic to illustrate my Tiger research project. The journey has given me a renewed appreciation of what Zoo's are trying to accomplish to save this majestic animal in three of it's most endangered species: Amur, Malayan and Sumatran. Missing from this are the Indo-Chinese Tigers, and not part of the formal work are the Bengal Tigers, because they are least threatened and part of what appears to be a very successful conservation effort in their native habitats.
I found it very interesting where various species of Tigers are maintained in the accredited and quality zoo's. To that end I have included 3 institutions that are quality facilities, while not formally accredited. The Alaska Zoo, Zoo Montana, (both formerly accredited and have lost this status for reasons having nothing to do with the quality of animal care) and Tiger World Zoo in North Carolina that has a quality program with well maintained animal care and public outreach around conservation. Three other non-accredited zoo's are included (Hattiesburg Zoo and Jackson Zoo--both in Mississippi, and Honolulu Zoo) because that are participating in the AZA Sumatran Species Survival Plan that moves animals from zoo to zoo for purposes of breeding and diversifying the genetic pool.
Beyond the zoos/parks that I explored, it is right to also mention that some studies estimate the raw number of tigers in North American exceed those in zoo's by a factor of 4! Tigers fall under the code of exotic pets and are unregulated to permitted with a license in 31 of the 50 states. It is estimated that there are as many and more private breeders of tigers without discrimination to genetic lineage, purity, and viability in the private sector as there are in these accredited zoos and parks.
Still, if you want to see the real deal. These are the places to go!
Additionally, I discovered some zoos that have recently renovated their Tiger habitat to the tune of several millions of dollars a pop! Among them are: The Denver Zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo, The Birmingham Zoo, The Knoxville Zoo, The Woodland Park Zoo (Seattle), The Jacksonville Zoo, and the Phoenix Zoo. Additionally the Greenville Zoo (South Carolina) is in the process of implementing a 15 million dollar up-grade with the hopes of joining the ranks of the AZA's Species Survival Plan institutions.
I know that animals are best lived in the wilds, but the world we have created has made this impossible for many, many species. Rather than thinking of zoos as exotic museums of animals from far away, we need to see them as life-preservers against a rising sea of extinction. It's not about condemning bad zoos, it's about expecting, demanding and funding good zoos.