Armenia: Politician Keeps Endangered Siberian Tigers as Pets

Published: 06 February 2015

Ruben Gevorgyan with Siberian Tiger cubs


An Armenian Member of Parliament has been breeding and raising Siberian tigers as exotic pets.

Ruben Gevorgyan, a member of the Prosperous Armenia party, spoke with HETQ about the half dozen endangered Siberian tigers he keeps at his home. Gevorgyan claims that 9 cubs have been born while in captivity, some of which he said he’d given away as gifts to friends.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists Siberian tigers in Appendix 1, which is reserved for only the most endangered species threatened with extinction. The international trade of animals listed in Appendix 1 is prohibited, with the exception of non-commercial circumstances such as scientific research. To be kept as pets, an import and export permit must be provided and recorded by CITES. According to CITES, Armenia adopted the treaty in 2009.

Gevorgyan says that he received the tigers five years ago from Russia, and that all the paperwork is in order. The transaction, however, does not appear in the CITES database. When a HETQ reporter asked if Gevorgyan was aware that ownership of these tigers was a violation of international treaties signed by Armenia, Gevorgyan replied that tigers in the wild would be jealous of the animals in his care.

Private zoos showcasing exotic animals are a growing trend amongst the Armenian elite. 

Armenia, once a part of the historic Silk Road trade route, has recently become a hub for the illegal trafficking of endangered species. The worldwide trade is thought to be worth US$ 20 billion annually, making it the fourth largest criminal trade globally. Investigations into the illegal import of bonobo apes caught the attention of Interpol last year.