TIGER KING – A GROWLING new exposé on BIG CATS in captivity and its significance to conservation.

A recent Netflix documentary series called Tiger King has taken the internet by storm around the world. Environmental activists, entertainment moguls, politicians, and teenagers alike have been captivated by the dramatic and oftentimes disturbing storyline of the series. It exposes the disheartening reality that wild animals are still being exploited for their monetary potential instead of being protected in their natural habits. In spite of this, the show has also expanded the necessary dialogue on wildlife and habitat conservation to a vast group of interested viewers from all over the world.

If you haven’t heard of the series or haven’t gotten around to watching it, Tiger King documents the lives and business operations of big-cat enthusiasts in the United States. Each episode has a reputation of being “crazier than the last” and for good reason. Animal cruelty, venomous rivalries, the underground market for cat cubs, cults, and a murder mystery are encompassed in the show’s 8 episodes. 

Infographic credit: Business Insider

The shocking fact that there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than currently alive in the wild tells us something is incredibly wrong with our current perspective on wild animals. The series exposes a number of for-profit big-cat breeding operations and the paradox that they represent. 

In an article published by The Guardian, Jules Howard writes, “Netflix’s most masterful trick is that, with this show, it has packaged up an important animal welfare issue into a true-crime maelstrom, machine-tooled to keep us coming back for the next episode.” This is true, however, it fails to involve scientists and credible wildlife activists in the show’s commentary. Ultimately, Netflix does tell the story of the injustices and cruelty these animals face in captivity, just through subliminal, or concealed, messaging. 

Fortunately, Tiger King comes at a pivotal point in time when post-2020 biodiversity and environmental goals are being set in hopes of turning around the world’s increasing rate of extinction and habitat loss. In this day and age, young people have grown up especially aware of the severe consequences of environmental degradation because it is the only reality most of them have known. And thanks to the series, millions of people of all ages have opened their eyes to the injustices of inhumane animal captivity and how this translates to the imperative protection of these species in the wild. 

Wild CAT FACTS from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

Tiger (Panthera tigris) 

  • 2,154 to 3,159 individuals in the wild
  • Decreasing population trend 
  • Considered “endangered” by the IUCN Red List
  • Habitats include forest, grassland, and shrubland
  • Found in Northeastern China, Central, and Southeast Asian regions

Lion (Panthera Leo)

  • 23,000 to 39,000 individuals in the wild
  • Decreasing population trend 
  • Considered “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List
  • Habitats include forest, grassland, savanna, shrubland, and desert
  • Found in the Sub-Saharan Africa region 

Leopard (Panthera pardus) 

  • Decreasing population trend 
  • Considered “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List
  • Habitats include forest, grassland, shrubland, and rocky areas
  • Found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

  • Decreasing population trend 
  • Considered of “least concern” by the IUCN Red List
  • Habitats include forest, savanna, and shrubland
  • Found throughout Central and the northern half of South America

Habitat loss, human encroachment, poaching, and disease are factors that threaten these species. The best way we can protect tigers and other wild cats is through habitat rehabilitation and conservation. 

To support the conservation and protection of tigers, you can check out  Panthera!