Monday, October 28, 2013

“Tigers live in Africa, right?”

“Tigers live in Africa, right?” Yes and no shouts fill the room. “Do they…,” I ask again.  Confused children begin to debate. Do tigers live in Africa?"

This is just one of the many questions we ask children during a Cubs for Cubs presentation. Cubs for Cubs is a program developed by the Tigers for Tigers club here at Clemson. The goal is to inform grade-school aged children about the plight of tigers and tigers in America. Many of these children have no idea about the tiger’s current endangered state, and the teachers seem surprised to hear such a low number of wild tigers existing too. Our goal is to change that, we want everyone to know that our wild tigers are dying, and we want them to help stop it.

Diane Dotson and Madeleine McMillan (left) of Clemson T4T speak to elementary school students about tigers.  
Many of the kids even have cub encounter stories, and are even more surprised to find out how these captive animals treated. IFAW provides our Cubs for Cubs program with stuffed animal tigers that we present to the class as their very own tiger. We do this to emphasize the fact that tigers are to be admired of course, but to discourage the support of cub-petting industries and owning tigers as pets. We stress the fact that it is best to leave tigers in the wild, but if they are already captive, in accredited zoos that have the proper funding and equipment to take care of these majestic giants.

A typical Cubs for Cubs visit to an elementary school or after school program consists of a fun and informative PowerPoint presentation, an educational video from IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and then a short, answer-out-loud quiz that reviews all the information that has been presented. We are always impressed with the amount of information these children retain as they answer the questions correctly.

My favorite part of the presentation is when we ask the children what we can do to save the tigers. It gives us hope for the tiger’s future to hear how passionate these children are by just listening to their solutions for saving the wild tiger. We get the usual, “protect them,” answer that is absolutely correct, but a lot easier said than done. One child’s question to a Tigers for Tigers member Trey Riedmayer, was our best response yet. “Why can’t we just kill them?” Startled, Trey asked the child to repeat his question. “Why can’t we just kill the poachers,” the child asked with his intentions in the right place. “It’s just not that easy,” answered Trey. We then tell the children how we can stop supporting the poacher’s deeds and how we should tell others to not buy tiger parts, which will hopefully put them out the business. The children give such inspiring answers on how to save the tiger, that we are instantly rewarded for all our hard work. The children get it, now why can’t everyone else?

Cubs for Cubs would like to give thanks to IFAW for providing us with the educational video that the children we visit always enjoy. Also for the stuffed animals tigers that help reiterate the point of not supporting cub industries or tigers as pets. Another thank you to Northside Elementary School for being so inviting to our club  by letting us visit twice already and already planning another visit. Lastly, I would like to personally thank all members, present and past, of Clemson University Tigers for Tigers for supporting Cubs for Cubs as we work to become a well established and respected program that raises awareness of Tigers in the wild and in America. Thanks to everyone who has taken part in Cubs for Cubs presentations. 

Diane Dotson
Clemson Tigers for Tigers

Monday, October 21, 2013

From one passion to another

Recently, I have changed my major from pre-veterinary studies towards animal conservation, because I have discovered something about myself that has changed everything. It took the effort of a 10-hour drive and a group of people to show me the importance of animal conservation for me to realize it.

Ever since I was young, I have been in love with elephants. Their magnificent enormity, unimaginable intelligence, and their ever-caring social groups entranced my imagination. It became clear to me that no matter what I did in my life, elephants had to be involved. Thus, how I latched on to being a wildlife veterinarian. This has been my goal for a very long time, with my mind never wavering until now.

When I participated in an internship in January with the Ocean Mammal Institute, my mind began to open a door I had never knocked on before. Shortly afterwards I was offered an opportunity to travel to South Carolina to check out a tiger conservation group, we all know as Tigers 4 Tigers. While there, I suddenly felt so passionate about the issues being brought to light and a new sense of purpose. I left there with a small seed of tiger conservation planted in my head that kept growing all summer long.

I began to realize that this was more than just a crush I had on tiger conservation. It was a full-fledged commitment. Never before had I felt that I was contributing to the world more than I do now. Once I understood the ramifications that we as people could have upon wildlife; being a veterinarian didn’t feel needed anymore. I felt that elephants and tigers didn’t need more veterinarians; they needed more people to fight for them. This is exactly how I feel about all wildlife and being a part of this organization has let me do just that – fight for justice in the animal world.

In short, this is what made me decide to change my major to animal conservation. I have taken an important step in my life that I could not have done without Tigers for Tigers. Now that I’m finally here, I feel empowered and committed to reach my new goals.

Chelsea Connor
Towson University T4T 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Journey to India

I never thought a trip to another country would have the power to actually change my life. I thought that was just something people claimed to happen to them, and then their life went back to being the same again a few weeks after they returned home. My trip to India proved me wrong.

In my sophomore year in college at Clemson University I had the privilege to travel to India during spring break through a class called Biodiversity and Conservation in India. In India I would have the opportunity to learn about and see the wildlife there firsthand, and hopefully – hopefully – see at least one of the remaining 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild.

At the beginning of that year I had joined Clemson’s Tigers for Tigers organization as a Philanthropy Officer, having a passion for wildlife, although my life plan was to study neuroscience and potentially become a neurosurgeon. I never expected a little one-and-a-half week trip to India would change that for me.

My imagination never could have prepared me for what happened while I was in India. We were riding in a Jeep through the forest when we saw it. A tiger. She was just lying in the road in front of us like we didn’t even exist as the Jeep pulled slowly up until we were what had to be no more than 15 feet away. We must have watched her there for only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity. The sheer size and power she embodied were unequivocal. At one point she looked right at us, staring. Relaxed, not terrified of us, of us who are destroying her land, her future, but also of us, who are doing all we can to help, doing all we can to give her a future. All I could think was how incredible this moment was; how absolutely once-in-a-lifetime it was.

From that moment on I knew I was not here to study neuroscience. I knew I was here to fight for conservation.

So I came back, fighting with full-fledge passion for tigers through Tigers for Tigers, becoming Vice President and helping to begin the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition and host its first annual summit, whose sole mission is to improve the status of tigers through the collaboration of students at tiger-mascot schools across the nation.

My trip to India changed my life path. You just can’t look into the eyes of a tiger in the wild and not expect your life to change.

Carmony Adler, 

Clemson Alumna 2013
Former Clemson T4T Vice President
India Spring Trip - 2011