By Candis Birchfield
Although rivals on the athletic field, students from Auburn University and the University of Missouri are working together to help save tigers in the wild through a conservation program called the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition. The coalition joins together academic institutions with tiger mascots to help spread awareness of the survival challenges tigers face, including habitat destruction, poaching and the pet trade.
“Tigers are such beautiful animals, and with it being our university’s mascot, and with Aubie being consistently ranked one of the best in the nation, it makes sense that Auburn students would work to help Aubie’s wild cousin, which is on the brink of extinction in its natural habitat,” said Ashley Newell, a senior in zoology/pre-veterinary medicine and a campus representative for Auburn’s Tigers for Tigers program.
The national coalition coordinator for Tigers for Tigers, Sean Carnell, said several states in the U.S., including Alabama, do not have regulations on the private ownership of big cats. He cites an estimated 5,000 big cats, such as tigers, are in private hands in Texas alone, and an estimated 13,000 are under private ownership nationwide. As a result, Tigers for Tigers supports the proposed Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, according to Carnell.
Last summer, the National Wildlife Refuge Association sponsored a team of students from participating universities to travel to Washington, D.C., to work with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to lobby in support of the act. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would ban most instances of private ownership of big cats throughout the country, with exceptions made for facilities such as zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and circuses that meet certain standards.
“People get tigers for pets, particularly in the state of Texas where it’s legal to do so, and they do not know how to take care of them, so when they get loose, they often get killed,” said Newell. “When you hear about people being attacked by tigers, the tiger is usually blamed, but the people are the ones who are really at fault, because tigers are not supposed to be in cages in someone’s backyard. They are not supposed to be pets. Tigers are wild animals and have instincts.”
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is the primary partner of Tigers for Tigers, and while the students were in Washington, D.C., they joined the association and met with senators from Louisiana and South Carolina. More....