|Kevin O'Day on far left with other members of T4T|
Kevin O’Day is sophomore at SUNY-Cobleskill pursuing a degree in wildlife management. He is also the founder of SUNY-Cobleskill T4T. On December 29, 2013 he sits down with Sean Carnell to talk about the T4T at SUNY-Cobleskill.
Why does all of this matter to you? Why should the American public care about the conservation?
I think that conservation and endangered species are going to be one of the most important issues of the 21st century. If humans cannot learn to live with other species without destroying them, there is really no way that we are going to survive ourselves. I believe that college students have an opportunity to change the world and improve it for all its inhabitants.
How did you find out about Tigers for Tigers and get started?
I found out about Tigers for Tigers from one of my professors. He received an email from the National T4T Coalition last year. Because he know that I am into big cats, he thought that I would be interested in joining. I have always loved big cats, and from there, I started a club this year at SUNY-Cobleskill.
Initially, I wasn’t going to start a club until you contacted me about the importance of developing one on campus. It will make students more aware of the problem. At the beginning it was primarily my friends who I asked to join. Now we are working on expanding our club to other students across campus.
How has your Tigers for Tigers helped you pursue a career and has it helped you develop your passion?
It definitely has expanded my knowledge and interest in big cats. Before Tigers for Tigers, I was primarily interested in big cats in Africa. But getting into tigers, and gaining an understanding of the current situation, it has made me realize that there are more problems for big cats than I knew before. I definitely think that the T4T club will help raise awareness for tigers and help save them from extinction. Specifically for SUNY-Cobleskill, it will be good, because it is a local smaller school, it will provide opportunities for others to get a greater understanding of what is happening in the world outside of New York.
Personally, I believe that the coalition will also allow me to get professional connections, which may help me get a job after college.
What are your plans after college?
I plan on moving to the Congo rainforest and working in a wildlife park there because I personally believe that it needs the most help in terms of protecting wildlife.
That sounds incredible, although dangerous, very exciting! What are your plans for next semester with T4T?
Next semester, I want to start doing things. This semester we focused on starting our organization. Now, we can start working on fun activities and fundraisers to that people on our campus can become more engaged about tigers and learn how they can help.
Do you have any advice for T4T clubs that are starting out?
I definitely suggest that you find people that truly care and are interested in the issue. It is also important to develop a core group before you expand. In other clubs, you see them get too big too fast and die out because no one is really interested in the subject.
It that is a very important point to address. Developing a core group of students is key to starting an organization at your school. Do you think that Tigers for Tigers is making a difference for tigers?
The idea to get college students involved is great. Focusing on political action and Congress is definitely a way to make a difference to ensure that the people in power, who can make decisions, are aware of the problems faced by these endangered species.
College students are definitely able to influence policy decisions. Mobilizing passionate college students is a great way to maximize the effectiveness and staying power of any movement, especially those that can take advantage of their idealism. Compared to older adults who have other obligations like a job and mortgage to pay, college students, have little to lose and therefore are more likely to try to save a species in a far-off land.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience meeting with Senators and Representatives in Congress from our trip to Washington DC in June with the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the International Fund for Animal Welfare? What was it like?
Going to Washington D.C was a great experience for me. Although the members of Congress and their staff were unaware of the policies that we were there to talk to them about, they seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say and were willing to lend their support to our issues. It was very inspiring to learn that members of Congress are very receptive to the idea of mobilizing college students to save tigers from extinction and that the coalition has the ability to make a significant positive difference in this endeavor.
Students at SUNY Cobleskill have decided to start a Tigers for Tigers club and join the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition because we believe that we have an obligation to save our majestic mascot in their time of need. By raising awareness about the plight of tigers in the wild, we hope to mobilize the public to take responsibility of mankind’s actions and reverse the fortunes of tigers in the wild.