Another challenge to eventual farm shutdowns will be finding safe, reputable sanctuaries for the thousands of tigers to retire into.
“Most have been in captivity for so long that they can no longer survive in the wild, nor can [they] be released into the wild due to their unknown and probably mixed genetic heritage and disease-transmission potential,” Henry said. “They will need human care for the rest of their lives.”
Vietnam faced a similar issue in 2002 when it banned the farming of bears for their bile. Rescue groups like Animals Asia have managed to rescue some of the animals, but hundreds still languish in their barren cages in the care of their owners.
While Laos has announced it hopes to pursue a phase-out plan for its tiger farms, the fate of the captive tigers in other countries is even more uncertain — especially in China, where tigers are functionally extinct in the wild but thousands exist in captive farms.