The Indonesian government has announced plans to sell tigers as pets for £67,000 a pair in what it claims is a move to protect the critically endangered species.
However, environmental groups have criticised the scheme as a money-making scam that will do nothing to save tigers, which face an increased risk from poachers on the eve of the Chinese Year of the Tiger.
Three people have already applied to follow in the footsteps of Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson and keep a tiger as a pet.
The criteria for taking ownership of 30 available tigers is having a spare billion rupiah (£67,000) and a minimum of 5 sq kilometre of land on which to keep the animals.
The government said the tigers would be constantly monitored in their new homes and any mistreatment would be punished by fines or jail.
“This idea of selling the tigers to the public came about after several wealthy businessmen proposed buying them,” said Didi Wuryanto, a forestry ministry official.
“They don’t just want to own horses. They want to be acknowledged as special people with prestige, so they want to keep tigers.”
Environmentalists warned selling off tigers as pets would encourage tiger poachers. Tiger poaching is on the rise across Asia ahead of Feb 14, the start of the Chinese Year of the Tiger.
“It is an irresponsible move by the Indonesian government,” said Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace forest campaigner.
“Selling tigers is not the solution. The government must protect the animal’s habitat and stop palm oil plantations taking over. This move will just encourage poaching among locals at a time when poaching is on the rise because of the Year of the Tiger.”
There are just 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild across Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund, and they are nearing extinction due to habitat loss.