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The Tiger

Students protect endangered species through donation and activism

The Clemson Tigers’ tie to the endangered species has existed since 1896, when the mascot was adopted. Clemson students have since taken on the mantle to protect wild tigers, whose numbers are only a few thousand.

Clemson’s athletic teams have been nicknamed the Tigers since 1896, when Walter Merritt Riggs brought the name from his alma mater, Auburn University. 

Ever since then, Clemson University has adopted the pride and strength represented by the tiger. 

Clemson T4T, also known as Tigers for Tigers, is an organization that fights for the very small population of tigers that are living in the wild, through education, research and service learning on local and global levels. There are more freshman at Clemson University than there are tigers left in the world. 

The sense of loyalty inspired by Clemson Tigers makes this University one that its students want to protect. Freshman Communications major, Sallie McLeod, describes her experience as a part of the Tiger family as one that is “like no other,” and she went on to say, “My pride in the school is something I can’t even put into words. I feel so loyal to this family, and I’ve only been here for less than 5 months. I’m sure it will only grow.”

The effort to protect the uniqueness of Clemson parallels to the same effort by T4T of conserving the rarity of our mascot in the wild and ensuring its ethical treatment in captivity.

Awareness is a big part of this movement. T4T volunteer, Brittani Sullivan said, “A lot of people don’t realize that things like tiger petting are not what they seem to be,” she said, referring to donation drives which allow donators to pet tiger cubs. “So many organizations lie when they tell you that the money you give to pet a tiger cub is going to tiger conservation when it actually isn’t, so being aware of these things is key. Trying to convince people that this is a bad thing is difficult because it seems so harmless. Tiger cubs are cute, who wouldn’t want to pet one right? That’s why we’re here: to make sure people know,” said Sullivan. 

“Another issue we face is the push to have a live tiger mascot. I know LSU has one. Clemson doesn’t and we’ve had to fight so hard against it. People just don’t understand that it’s not healthy for this animal,” Sullivan said.

In order to conserve Clemson’s mascot in the wild, T4T supports Tiger Trust located in India. India is the host of the world’s largest tiger population and a source of conservationist movement.

To protect the integrity of our mascot in captivity T4T supports AZA, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and GFAS, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Both are dedicated to the welfare and prosperity of these animals kept in captivity.

To ensure that Clemson does its part in helping these organizations, T4T holds two major philanthropy events: the Wing Eating Contest in the fall and a 5K Run/Walk in the spring.

The success of T4T has not been limited to Clemson or even just South Carolina. Sullivan said, “We’ve helped support individual tigers from this place called The Cat Rescue, our most recent success has been helping Tisha the tiger in Ohio.”

Tisha, like many tigers held in captivity, was mistreated. T4T made it a mission to help provide her a safe and sustainable option for the remainder of her life, since she could not be released.

“She experienced a lot of neglect in the zoo she was held, so our team took her out of that situation and nursed her back to health.”
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