“This is a huge and growing problem in this country,” she says, “more than any other nation. People here are fascinated by these animals and want to own and breed and profit from them.”
However, points out Ms. Coppola, while the lack of national regulation of the exotic animal trade continues to lead to such tragedies, the impact is growing on what are increasingly endangered species.
She notes that some 5,000 tigers are kept in captivity in the state of Texas alone, while roughly 3,000 remain in the wild globally.
Cat Haven, the central California wildlife park where Wednesday’s death occurred, is regulated by both the USDA and the State Fish and Wildlife Service. The facility had passed a USDA inspection as recently as last month. However Cat Haven falls short of qualifying under international standards as a true sanctuary, which neither breed nor exhibit animals, says Monica Engebretson of Born Free USA.