Sen. Ted Cruz managed to produce a massive firestorm on social media Wednesday night when he posted a picture of himself and Sen. Mike Lee kneeing next to what appears to be a tiger skin rug with the message, “Did a little shopping for the office with @SenMikeLee in Houston today.” The reaction, as recorded on Twitchy, was one of shock and outrage. Warning, some of it is quite obscene and most of it is angry.
Several tweets imagined that the tiger rug would come alive or that the tiger’s family would show up and eat the senator. Another imagined “Senator Tony the Tiger” posing next to a Ted Cruz rug. Many of the tweets attacked the senator’s intelligence and manhood. A few suggested that Cruz was deliberately tweaking PETA and other animal rights activists.
There is no way of knowing, as of this writing, whether the tiger skin in real or fake. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has made trade in tiger skins illegal, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since Cruz, being a lawyer, would know this so it is unlikely that he would pose next to an illegal rug. The item is either an antique, that is to say a rug taken from a tiger before the ban, or it is fake.
In the case of an antique rug, some sort of proof or provenance would have to be included that the item was not taken from a tiger after the ban was imposed, with the USFWS approving the sale in advance. While hunting tigers is officially prohibited throughout the world, poaching and a clandestine trade in skins and body parts, prized in traditional Chinese medicine, is a persistent problem. Loss of habitat has also contributed to the decline in tiger populations.