Shortly before Christmas 2018, authorities discovered and confiscated a male puma cub in a private apartment in the German city of Lahr. The then two-month-old exotic pet was legally bought in the Czech Republic but illegally smuggled into Germany. The international animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS has taken the cub named Tikam into its care and will place him – after a period in quarantine – in its big cat centre, TIERART.
Tikam's sad case is yet another example of how Europe’s legal trade in tigers and other cat species overlaps with illegal activity. FOUR PAWS aims to stop such activities through a campaign calling for a ban on commercial trade.
The owner of the property where the puma was being kept drew the attention of authorities to the unusual pet. The young puma was purchased from a Czech breeder for 2,300 Euros and brought to Germany by car. The buyer, however, had no permit to keep the puma, or to export and import documents allowing for the transfer of the animal from the Czech Republic into Germany. Furthermore, it was revealed that papers showing the animal's vaccination record and origin were deficient.
“Keeping a puma in a small apartment is not only absolute cruelty to animals, but also dangerous for the owners and neighbours. What looks small and cute now will later develop into a predator weighing up to 100 kilos. In addition, it was extremely worrying that Tikam didn’t have a record of rabies vaccination, so we had to quarantine him immediately and have him vaccinated to avoid the potential risk of infection.”
Florian Eiserlo, site manager at the FOUR PAWS big cat centre, TIERART.
At TIERART, the young puma will find a new, species-appropriate home after being released from quarantine. It is impossible to release the puma into the wild, as Tikam has been exposed to intensive human contact and would not be able to survive alone.
The EU: a paradise for illegal wildlife smugglers
Tikam’s story is yet another bizarre example of how easy it is to purchase exotic wildlife in EU countries and smuggle these animals into other EU states. This is due to insufficient controls and inadequate legislation in the EU.
“More and more wild animals are being found in questionable environments in the heart of Europe. Our latest research shows that many big cats – especially tigers – are legally bred within the EU and sold to private individuals, dubious zoos or to Asia. Tigers are even slaughtered directly in Europe and their body parts are later processed for traditional medicine. Bones, teeth, skin and claws make a lot of money on the black market – trading big cats is a lucrative business.”
Kieran Harkin, Head of Wild Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS.
Putting an end to the big cat trade
Since breeding and trading tigers is legal in many EU countries, the region has developed into a hub for the big cat trade, especially the trade in tigers and tiger products.
“There isn’t a lot of up-to-date information on how many wild and big cats are kept in countries like Germany and nobody really knows how many big cats are being kept in living rooms or backyards. The current legal situation is beyond deficient and has led to countless animals being kept in absolutely inappropriate circumstances. Moreover, the amateur handling of and attitude towards wild animals also pose a danger to other humans and animals,” says Harkin.
FOUR PAWS calls on the European Commission to introduce stricter regulations and ban commercial trade in tigers and other cat species once and for all.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au