Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Happy Global Tiger Day #WhereRtheTigers?

Happy Global Tiger Day! It’s finally here – the day when the world stops briefly to appreciate, learn about, and take action for the tiger.

You may have already noticed that T4T has taken advantage of Global Tiger Day to launch a social media campaign using the hashtag #WhereRtheTigers? “Where are the tigers?” can be applied to multiple dimensions of tiger conservation and together we ask you to join our campaign. 

Where are the tigers in the wild? 

As most of us already know, tigers are found throughout the continent of Asia. Unfortunately, less than 3,200 remain, and those that do are split up into many small populations facing numerous threats including habitat loss and poaching.

Where are the tigers, as in where are the students, faculty, alumni, and fans who call themselves tigers? 

There are 450,000 students alone who call themselves tigers in the US, and when you include faculty, alumni, and fans that number well surpasses one million. We have the potential to use our collective voice to achieve great things for tigers! We can inspire and empower others to make a difference for tigers. 

Right now, the easiest way we can work together to help tigers is by urging Congress to pass the Global Anti-Poaching Act (HR 2494). This bill, currently in the House of Representatives, will give the United States increased tools to combat wildlife trafficking by increasing penalties for committing wildlife trafficking crimes, supporting anti-poaching efforts in countries around the world, and providing support for wildlife law enforcement in countries with severe poaching problems.

So far today we’ve received support from individuals and organizations across the world using our hashtag #WhereRtheTigers, including the UK, India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. This amazing support from the global community underlines how important tigers are not just to those of use who when to tiger mascot schools, but to people around the world.

To further drive the message home this Global Tiger Day, we are releasing an exclusive cartoon depicting the different views of tiger conservation in the US and China. 

Where are the tigers in China?

Did you know that there are 6,000 captive tigers in China being farmed for their parts? China’s trade in tiger skins and tiger bone wine undermines international conservation efforts by allowing a legal market to launder poached tiger parts. The United States needs to continue to take action to address the global poaching crisis by passing legislation that will set an example to the world by taking a leadership role in international wildlife conservation. 

Global Tiger Day is an exciting time to appreciate our mascot and celebrate our identity as tigers. Just as importantly, those of us who call ourselves tigers need to take action and do what we can to save our mascot so future generations will never have to ask the question, “Where are the tigers?”

Please click on this link to sign the letter to tell your Congressmen to pass the Global Anti-Poaching Act today! 

Please distribute our cartoon on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #WhereRtheTigers? 

Thank you tiger fans and happy Global Tiger Day,

Taylor Tench
National T4T Coalition Policy Intern

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Member Spotlight: Diane Dotson of Clemson T4T Interns at Big Cat Rescue

For most college students, summer break is not all fun and games. Those three months before the beginning of a new academic year constitute a critical period for students to find work and complete internships that compliment their academic success. Finding an internship is difficult enough, but landing a position that is also fun and fulfilling is very difficult to do. Diane Dotson, Vice President of T4T at Clemson University, has managed to do just that.  

Diane is interning at Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Tampa, Florida, for the summer and loving every minute of it. BCR is one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating big cats. While home to many tigers, big cat rescue also houses lions, servals, bobcats, and several other species of wild felines.
I had a chance to talk with Diane about her internship, and it was clear that she is enjoying her summer experience.

Diane Dotson taking a selfie at BCR
What made you want to commit your last summer to helping the animals at Big Cat Rescue?

As I progressed through my college career at Clemson I become involved in T4T, and studied conservation in Costa Rica. I wanted to pursue my passion in conservation. After interning with T4T last summer, I decided that I wanted to gain more experience with an organization that values the same issues with captivity as I do. Big Cat Rescue is the gold standard for sanctuaries for big cats and after following them closely on social media, reading information on their website, and visiting the sanctuary, I knew that I wanted to intern for them. There is no amount of money that could convince me to choose a different path than the one I’m on. I want to make a difference for big cats and I knew I’d learn exactly how to do that while interning at BCR this summer.

Is working as a keeper at a rescue something you’d want to pursue more?
There’s nothing more rewarding than walking home after a long day of work and
having the cats chuff, “moo”, purr, or just rub up against the enclosure almost as if they are thanking you for all your hard work that day. I love that I get to make a difference for the cats. As I spend more time with people that truly care about animals, I realize that I can make a huge difference through policy, education, and outreach. I love giving tours and spreading the word about issues facing big cats and informing people how they can make a difference even in the smallest ways. Ideally I will have a job one day where I can fight for animals publicly, as well as conduct on the ground work.

What do you hope to get out of this experience, and what have you gotten out of it so far?

I definitely wanted to learn more about captivity of big cats from a keeper’s perspective. Now I’m able to make my own opinions as I observe them everyday. Because of my experiences so far, my beliefs have been strengthened. For instance, when I see Bengali, a male tiger that was in the circus, my heart just breaks for all the hardships he had to endure before he was rescued. Or Amanda, a female tiger, whose damage from her and her brothers’ time exploited in the cub petting industry is quite obvious by their lack of trust of humans. We need to do more to prevent these rescued cats from needing to be rescued in the first place.

What are your responsibilities as an intern with Big Cat Rescue?

We wake up around 7:00, have breakfast, and walk through the 67-acre sanctuary to start our work. Then we prep the food and ensure that all of the animals are fed. However, as a level 1 intern we cannot actually feed the big guys. We clean our enclosures everyday, and then we have lunch for 30 minutes and head out to a project. Today we took down an old enclosure in order to build our small cat (bobcats, lynxes, caracals, servals, and hybrids) vacation rotation enclosure. Our vacation enclosure is a 2.5 acre area that the cats rotate through for enrichment purposes.

Diane (far left) and other interns
How will the internship contribute toward your career goals?

I have become a better advocate for big cats. I’ve had the opportunity to form my own opinions and learn what really matters to me. It’s awesome that I get to volunteer at Big Cat Rescue and work with great people who fight for the ethical treatment of big cats and continue to be encouraged to do all that I can. We have the utmost respect for our cats.

It’s really cool that all these things that I’ve been interested in, and have dreamt about my entire life, are all incorporated here at BCR. Often we will be walking home and one of the cats will walk the length of its enclosure with us and one of my fellow interns will point out that this is truly amazing that we are four feet away from an adult tiger. As a child, I have never guessed that I would be spending 12 hours a day alongside tigers, lions, leopards, etc. at just 20 years old. We often take our incredible opportunity for granted, and I can’t imagine spending my summer any other way.

What has been the most exciting thing you’ve been a part of so far at your internship?

This question is really hard! I have so many things that were fun for different reasons. I really enjoy watching my fellow interns “light up” when their favorite cat responds to their poor attempts at chuffing with a “hearty cuff,” or when I get to pull the cart to feed Outback (there are only lions and tigers out there); it’s really astonishing. We have three tigers from a Texas rescue named Andre, Arthur, and Amanda, and they are crazy wild. They’re very aggressive during feeding and we have to split their individual diets. When they get fed they charge the cage, growl and roar at you. It’s quite scary, but really cool at the same time! They definitely remind you that you can take a cat out of the wild (or raise them in captivity) but you still can’t take the wild out of the cat.

Five interns, myself included, went on a “bobcat rescue” after a wild bobcat was reported to be injured by a car. We went out to try and find it with big nets, lots of bug spray, and BCR’s founder, Carole Baskin. It was a really different experience. We found signs that the bobcat had been there but we could not find it.

Ooh and I also got to help move Jade and Armani, which are two female, sister leopards. They are incredibly gorgeous! They were actually really calm, surprisingly enough, and it was cool to be able to see them up close and really appreciate their wildness. They are definitely enjoying their time in leopard vacation rotation, especially as they have been taking turns showing off for the neighbor leopard.

Big Cat Rescue is located in Tampa, Florida, and offers tours seven days a week. To find out more about Big Cat Rescue’s work, you can visit their website here.

Thank you Diane Dotson for your help on this piece. Go tigers!


Taylor Tench
National T4T Coalition Policy Intern

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Vratika’s Close Encounter with a Wild Tiger

Earlier this year, were heard that Vratika Chaudhry, a M.S. student under Dr. David Tonkyn, the founding Advisor of Clemson T4T, was almost charged by a tiger on foot! Here is her story.

“I conduct my fieldwork in Kanha Tiger Reserve, India for my Master’s research here at Clemson University in South Carolina.  For my M.S. research I am looking into disease spillover risk from feral carnivores to wild carnivores in central India.  I was in India for my second field season from January to May 2015.  During my fieldwork I came across a massive male tiger, too close for comfort. Thankfully, no one got hurt and I will be able to tell the story and share my memories forever.

On February 25th 2015, I finished my work for the day, and decided to go for a walk in the buffer area of the national park.  I asked my friend Dimple to come along. Dimple Bhati is the hostess of a Kanha Jungle Lodge, which is one of the oldest resorts in tourist zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve.

We had been planning to go for a walk for a while, but we struggled to find the time due to our busy schedules. Finally when we got a little time on our hands we went for the walk at about 3.30 pm. I had my equipment in the car so I asked my driver/ field assistant to stay back. Dimple suggested bring him along as well and he joined us on our trek.

So we walked about half a mile on the trail and we saw footprints of a male tiger, relatively fresh, maybe from that morning.  As we walked down the riverbank we heard a long grumbling noise… I thought it was tiger roar. Dimple thought it was elephant, as an elephant camp was nearby. We were confused because it was a really long and low-pitched sound. However, it shortly stopped and we forgot about it. We walked 1.5 miles further down the trail, and decided to go off the trail, following an animal tract towards the riverbank.  I can recall the three of us standing on the riverbank, looking at black ibises, as Dimple was on phone telling her chef, the recipes of beetroot soup. Both of us were a meter apart and the driver was a couple of meters behind us.

A tiger in Kanha National Park, India
Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw black and orange stripes walking down the bank, about 15 meters away from us on the same side of the bank. It took me couple of seconds to comprehend what it was and take out words from my mouth- Tiger! “Where?!,” said Dimple. As she looked across the riverbank searching for the cat, I pointed at the huge male tiger, 15 meters away, who has just spotted us- TIGER!

The driver creeped behind us, peeked a look from behind me, and decided to trace his steps backwards quickly. He kept telling us to trace backwards as well, but we knew it was not an option; one wrong move on our part and tiger would have attacked us in reflex. We could not find my driver for a long time after that.

The tiger looked at us, all confused, as he was coming down the bank to drink water out of the river. But he found us…and then he sat down on his hind legs, looking intently at us. Dimple wanted to take a picture but I asked her not to in fear that the tiger would react. Now we regret it :D. I was constantly asking her to step back, one step at a time, as I thought it would be good to increase the distance between the tiger and us. I took one step back with my left foot and the tiger reacted! He moved one step ahead, ears facing front, white of ears visible, face bent, and nose peeking...(attack mode). We froze..

That was the moment when both Dimple and I thought, this is it, we’re going to die! Dimple and I kept talking to each other and looking into tigers eyes.. The tiger stared at us with intensity. All of us (Dimple, the tiger and I) stayed frozen for three minutes, which seem to have lasted forever, until the tiger decided to go back on the trail.

In that moment, we realized that we needed to run. We had two options. Either go back on the trail and take the risk of bumping into the tiger again, as tigers sometimes ambush from a different direction if there prey has spotted them, or run through the river. We chose the second option. I kept making loud noises the entire way. And somehow, we managed to get back, alive and intact!

Even when we thought we would die, I could not stop myself at being awed by that amazing animal, so muscular, so graceful, so fast, and somehow in the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t going to harm us, and if it attacked, it would have been due to our stupid reaction.

Thinking about the behavioral science behind the whole event, I had a few questions in my mind. So I thought I would answer them for you.  

1. Why did tiger not hear or smell us? (We were quite loud on the trail)

We were on the bank that had a four-foot drop from the trail on the either side that blocked our smell and sound. It was a hot day and we were there in the early evening. I’m going to assume that the tiger just woke up from catnap, as they do sleep up to 16 hours a day!

2. What was he thinking when he saw us?

He was as surprised to see us, as we were to see him! He didn’t expect to see us there. He was just coming down to drink water and he found us instead.

3. Why didn’t he attack us?

He was trying to figure out if we were a threat or prey. He matched his moves to ours. All of his motions were reactions and then when he perceived that we were not prey, he traced back.

4. Could the situation have been worse?

Oh yea! If it was a mother tiger with cubs, and we were in middle of the family, I would not be here to tell the story. If it was an injured tiger or a tiger protecting its kill, again, probably I would not be writing this post and hopefully someone would have published my results…

5. Did we deal with the situation well enough?

Most likely yes! Well, we are still alive ☺ The worst thing we could have done was to run and trigger tiger’s reflexes to charge.

6. So how do you try to avoid a tiger attacking you?

Here is my advice: Go in groups, carry a stick, try to look for signs like spray scents, scats, fresh pugmarks, and if a situation like this arises, never try to run, try to look bigger, shout and beat the stick and hope that the tiger would spare you. ☺

It was once in a lifetime experience, which I am never going to forget.”

Vratika Chaudhary
Masters Students
Clemson University 

Thank you Vratika for sharing this incredible story! We are so thankful that you are alive and well! For more information on Vritika’s work with tigers, please visit Dr. David Tonkyn’s website at

Go tigers,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


At the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition office, we dream of forests, swamps and tundra where wild tigers are free to roam without fear of falling victim to the violent greed of poachers. We dream of a world as it once was, where less than a century ago, more than 100,000 wild tigers prowled across Asia. Unfortunately, so long as tiger parts remain profitable on the black market, this is a dream that will never again be realized.

Today, less than 3,200 tigers are estimated to remain in the wild. It’s a number that signals a grim reality for the species – and one that leads us to ask #WhereAreTheTigers?

The last remaining wild tigers are spread out across only 7% of their former territory. Large-scale farmers, timber industry workers and developers continue to ravage native tiger habitats in Asia at a breakneck pace, and as a result, most of these tigers are unable to find enough food to feed themselves or their cubs. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the world’s forests are lost “at a rate of as many as 36 football fields every minute.” 
A tiger pugmark

But even the wild tigers that can manage to sustain themselves face a far more severe threat – their skin, bones, teeth, claws and whiskers are all highly-prized on the black market, and despite international efforts at regulation, poachers can fetch as much as $50,000 from the parts of a single tiger. And with each successful sale, demand for these parts only grows.

The crisis is by no means beyond our reach as Americans. Sporting one of the largest captive tiger populations in the world, with most outside of zoos and dedicated research facilities, the United States is surprisingly lax when it comes to regulating tigers as pets. In many states, buying a tiger from a breeder is easier than adopting a dog from a shelter, and some don’t even require those who buy tigers to notify local authorities or neighbors! For the estimated 5,000 tigers forced into private ownership, a lack of attention by the US government often means a life of insufficient care, or even death on the black market.

A worse fate still for these captive tigers can be found across Asia, in commercial “tiger farms” that are still allowed to operate legally by the Chinese and other governments. Despite a 1993 ban on the trade and use of tiger parts in China and an international ban on the tiger trade in 1987, there is a growing demand for tiger parts and derived products among Chinese elite as a status of wealth and influence. In the past decade alone, the World Wildlife Fund reports that over 1,000 tigers, many from such tiger farms, have been killed solely to meet the consistently high demand of Asian consumers.

Blood of the Tiger by J.A. Mills
Renowned tiger expert J.A. Mills describes in her recent book TheBlood of the Tiger, an estimated 6,000 tigers are bred for their parts like cattle on such farms, and hesitation to confront the Chinese government for these atrocities allows them to operate without interference. 

So, #WhereRtheTigers? They are forced into the shadows to escape poachers, exiled from their historical range. They are being sold off in small parts through illegal markets the world over. They are languishing in our own backyards, longing for support. They are hidden away on tiger farms, where they are treated as a commodity. They are dying by the thousands, and if nothing changes, they soon won’t be anywhere at all.

Today, the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, concluded a trip to Vietnam where she met with government officials to discuss how the US government and the Vietnamese government can work together to put an end to the illegal wildlife trade. Her next stop is China, where she will have similar discussions with top officials of the country that ranks #1 in the world for the illegal wildlife trade.

We have a dream of helping tigers, and we know you do too. But if we are to progress, we need to raise awareness, pressure governments and the international community to regulate the treatment of tigers, and show poachers, wildlife traffickers and tiger farm operators that their business will not be tolerated. Please join us in spreading our #WhereRtheTigers campaign on your favorite social media outlet, and stay with us for continuing updates on our cause.

Stay tuned for our upcoming Global Tiger Day campaign on July 29th, 2015 and ask yourself: #WhereRtheTigers?

Go Tigers!

National T4T Coalition Staff


A special thanks to Justin Jacques, Communications Intern from the National Wildlife Refuge Association for crafting this piece.