Wednesday, September 24, 2014

T4T Members Roar for Tigers in D.C.

On Wednesday, September 17th members from the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition flew to Washington D.C. to speak with Senators and their Representatives to rally support for not only their shared tiger mascot, but also for wildlife conservation in general. There were three ultimate asks when it came to conversations with the Senators & their staffers:

1. To seek funding to address wildlife trafficking.
2. To seek funding to support U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s international   
conservation efforts.
3. To seek co-sponsors for the Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act.

The illegal wildlife trafficking crisis generates an estimated $20 billion annually which is now being used by crime syndicates all over the world to fuel terrorist activities. Thankfully, the Administration and many Congressional leaders have made this issue a priority. Tigers for Tigers members raised their voice to help address the issue.   They asked for an increase in funding to support the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s efforts combat wildlife trafficking in foreign countries by improving local law enforcement and reducing demand.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders program provides critical funding to conserve rhinos, elephants, great apes, marine turtles, and our beloved mascot, the tiger. They work directly with local conservationists and organizations to expand education programs, reduce demand for wildlife products, protect habitats, and collaborate across the world.

Pictured L to R: Chelsea Connor, Taylor Tench, Nathan Hahn, Diane Dotson
A small increase in funding within both of these programs will make a huge impact on the conservation of not only the tiger, but also other endangered species that need our help NOW!

In the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 big cats in the hands of private owners. There are no federal regulations protecting these animals when it comes to ownership and breeding, putting not only the animal in harm’s way, but the people around it as well. This brings us to the third and final ask. The Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act (S.1381) prohibits the private ownership and breeding of big cats in the United States.

For two days, members met with over nine Senators and their staffers to discuss these concerns and seek their support. The students found it relieving that the staffers were around their age ranging from 23-28 years old. “The Senators and their staff were nice and willing to hear us out. It felt good to know that by me being there to voice for tigers really helped push wildlife conservation in the right direction,” said Chelsea Connor, Towson Tigers for Tigers president.

The students even got to personally thank Senator Rob Portman of Ohio who played an integral role in championing the Save Vanishing Species Stamp! “It made me realize how much is currently being done at the federal government level, and how many more opportunities remain to make an even greater impact,” said Taylor Tench, current Clemson University Tigers for Tigers president. During the meet and greet with Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, the Senator himself said he would love to put the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition in direct contact with his team to provide suggestions on how to combat wildlife trafficking. Taylor went on to say, “I used to think that conservation meant going out in the jungle and studying animals or plants. While that is definitely a part of it, I never truly made the connection of field research to policy. Through policy, these types of projects get funded and laws are made to support conservation.”

Pictured L to R: Taylor Tench, SC Senator Tim Scott, Diane Dotson
When asked whether the trip had an impact on her future career choice, Diane Dotson, vice-president of Clemson University Tigers for Tigers said, “As much I want to be on the ground seeing my progress, I would love to work with Public Awareness. Human-animal conflicts play a huge role in conservation and with our help we can make a difference. I absolutely loved learning the policy side of things and am eager to learn more!” At the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, we want to help students with their career goals by providing them with unique experiences that will empower them to make a difference. That’s what college is all about, and it’s what makes T4T so special!

For some, the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition has already helped get students in the career paths they want. Nathan Hahn, Colorado College Tigers for Tigers alum, is currently working with tiger biologist Eric Dinerstein on new anti-poaching technologies. For Nathan, this was his second time visiting several Senators’ offices on behalf of the Coalition. When asked about this year’s trip, Nathan said, “Since I was fortunate enough to go last July as well, I could see how much more ready to listen these guys about the poaching crisis and its links to crime and terrorism. That was a new idea among them just a year ago, and it just goes to show what getting involved on the legislative/political side of conservation can do for the overall goal of protecting wildlife.” These students are not only putting in an immense amount of effort to protect their mascot, but they are seeing the progress being made firsthand. We have the ability as U.S. citizens to let our voices be heard on issues we care about, and that is exactly what we are going to continue to do!

On behalf of the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, we would like to thank all of our Tigers for Tigers students, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. We couldn’t #SaveourMascot without you! If you, too, would like your voice to be heard, attached below are letters for you to send to your congressional leaders to show your support.

All the best,

Carrah Lingo
Communications Associate
National Tigers for Tigers Coalition

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Save Vanishing Species Stamp Won't Go Extinct

On Monday, September 8th 2014 Congress kept the Save Vanishing Species Stamp alive! After a brief halt with the stamp last Fall, Senate bill S.231 passed through the House of Representatives. The bill has been placed on the President’s desk and will be signed into law at any moment!

Since its induction in 2011, the Save Vanishing Species Stamp has raised over $2.5 million towards conservation efforts to help save tigers, African and Asian elephants, rhinos, great apes, and marine turtles. The stamp sells for 55 cents a piece, with 9 cents going towards the Multinational Conservation Species Fund that saves these animals.

Money raised by the stamp has gone to grants that have supported conservation efforts in over 30 countries through 47 different projects! These efforts include on-the-ground hiring and training of anti-poaching units, educating communities on wildlife crime prevention, and more. With less than 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild today, programs like this give us hope for the future of our mascot. 

The National Tigers for Tigers Coalition has worked this past year to push for reauthorization of the stamp, and because of your support even more projects will be implemented to save the tiger from extinction. Through our #SavetheStamp campaign this past Summer, several letters were sent out on YOUR behalf! This just goes to show the kind of positive impact you can have in making a difference in the conservation world. We still need your help to #SaveourMascot now more than ever. If you’d like to keep up with what we are doing be sure to LIKE us on Facebook here and FOLLOW us on Twitter here.  A huge thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen! Go Tigers!

Carrah Lingo

Communications Associate
National Tigers for Tigers Coalition

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To Russia With Love

In a world that is becoming increasingly accessible, where well-traveled people claim that “everyone speaks English” and smartphone apps can instantly translate any book, it may seem as though learning a second language is a waste of time. For future conservation professionals, this myth is promoted through course requirements that leave out foreign languages and in turn focus on math and economics. While math and economics are undoubtedly important, if you want to work towards conservation in another country, I can attest that learning a second language can be as good as a ticket there.
(C) Jen Morton 2013

I recently finished a field season in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve in the Russian Far East. This reserve has been set aside strictly for tiger conservation and is only open to researchers and managers. My work was focused on analyzing prey populations for the endangered Amur tiger. I spent three months collaborating with some of the world’s most renowned tiger researchers and participating in tiger conservation efforts. I had the opportunity to photograph tigers in the wild and spend a great deal of time in one of the world’s great wild places. For me this was a dream come true, and I attribute it in large part to learning Russian while I was an undergrad.

When I began searching for a graduate school, I was required to find an advisor to take me under his/her wing and into their lab for the research component of my Master’s degree. While I wrote dozens of emails, the only promising response I received was from Dr. David Tonkyn of Clemson University.

(C) Jen Morton 2013
When David called, he wasn’t impressed by my GPA and didn’t want to hear about any extracurricular activities or leadership roles or any of the typical college acceptance things. He wanted to talk to me about Russia. He noticed a singular line on my resume that said I had double majored in my undergraduate program and that I had received a degree in Russian. I should point out here that the only reason I double majored was because I took a few Russian classes on a whim and I really liked them.

David had been interested in Russian ecosystems for a long time and had always been on the lookout for a student that he could send that way. It was a great match for both of us and before I knew it I was on a plane, another plane, another plane, and a long bus ride down a dusty road to Ternei, Russia.

We all know, of course, that learning a second language will not guarantee you a dream trip to one of the world’s great wild places. Many of the researchers that live the dream saving the great and threatened flora and fauna of the world though will tell you that a second language can be a very nice bridge between a dream and a job.

Jen Morton
Clemson University Graduate Student