Wednesday, January 28, 2015

T4T Student to Attend Special Forces Ranger Training in Africa

Kevin O'Day has been a part of Tigers for Tigers, representing SUNY: Cobleskill, since Summer 2013. As one of the most active T4T members, Kevin has interned with the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, attended the 2014 T4T Summit, and visited Washington D.C. to advocate for wildlife policy. Kevin O'Day was on his path to getting his Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management. With only a year left before he'd achieve this degree, Kevin has decided to take a turn and pursue his passion on the front lines in Africa. I sat down with Kevin to learn more about his decision and how T4T helped inspire him to stay with conservation!

L to R: Rajiv Bery, Kevin O'Day and Kaitlin Carter at 2014 T4T Summit @ Mizzou

C: Hey, Kevin! When did you first become involved with Tigers for Tigers?

K: I became involved with T4T during my freshmen year at SUNY Cobleskill after my professor told me about the letter that he had received inviting Cobleskill to join the national coalition. Because of my interest in big cat conservation, I contacted Sean and have been involved in the organization ever since.

C: Awesome. When did your passion for conservation arise?

K: I have always loved animals, but after going on safari in Africa with my aunt and uncle during my senior year of high school, I realized that I wanted to live in Africa and do what I can to protect its wildlife.

C: Okay. So you’re no longer a student as of the end of 2014 Fall semester. What are you doing now?

K: I am going to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for Special Forces ranger training with a private ranger organization known as the African Wildlife Defence Force (AWDF). AWDF is a newly developed organization that plans to provide highly trained rangers to support parks and reserves across sub-Saharan Africa in their fight to protect their wildlife from poachers. My departure date isn’t set in stone yet, as they’re recruiting more South African rangers before I can start.

C: Wow! What a switch.  Keep me updated on your departure. How did an opportunity like this arise?

K: After reading an article released by WWF, which stated that global wildlife populations have decreased by 52% over the past 40 years, I realized that I wanted to become a ranger so that I can be on the front lines of the war to protect the world’s remaining wildlife. So, I started looking online for ranger schools and found AWDF, which I chose over the other organizations because they offer special forces training and provide the opportunity to work all over sub-Saharan Africa.

C: I think this is an extremely admirable move.  What are you hoping to accomplish through this decision?

K: By working as a ranger for AWDF, I hope to do my part to protect Africa’s wildlife from extinction. Because most parks in Africa are understaffed and undertrained, I hope to maximize my contribution to saving Africa’s wildlife by working with AWDF to provide support to rangers in need of help. I am particularly concerned with protecting rhinos, because they are critically endangered and are still being killed relentlessly for their horns to meet Asia’s demands for Chinese medicine.

C: Awesome. So, we know tigers are not in Africa. What role did T4T play in your decision to become a ranger there?

K: Through my involvement in T4T, I have gained a much better understanding of the real life threats faced by wildlife all over the planet. I have also met many people who are passionate about saving wildlife, and it has further inspired me to do what I can to protect wildlife.

Kevin pictured left during D.C. policy trip

C: Very inspiring, Kevin. Lastly, what does T4T mean to you?

K: I love T4T because it has the potential to completely change the wildlife conservation field. By appealing to students and educating them about the problems facing their mascot, T4T will hopefully help to shift public consciousness towards conserving wildlife. Through connections with the government, T4T has already begun to influence national policy and has impressed policy makers with their ability to build public support. I have also made a lot of friends through this organization who I know will be influential in the conservation field in the near future.

Everyone at T4T is so incredibly proud of Kevin, his work with Tigers for Tigers, and his decision to be on the frontlines of protecting wildlife. It definitely takes a certain type of individual to make this kind of decision, and Kevin will continue to be an inspiration to us all at T4T! We support you wholeheartedly, and good luck over there!

Carrah Lingo
Communications Associate

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Towson T4T Travels to Carolina Tiger Rescue

During their Winter break, Towson University T4T members chose to spend a week volunteering at Carolina Tiger Rescue (CTR), through their university's Alternative Break Connections program. CTR is an accredited, non-breeding, big cat sanctuary located in Pittsboro, NC and offers the opportunity to learn more about big cats, and the problems surrounding them in the U.S.

Towson T4T members take a trip to Carolina Tiger Rescue

When asked to describe their experience in three words, Towson T4T president, Chelsea Connor said, "Inspiring, enlightening and fun!" Before arriving, the 14 girls had no idea what they had in store for them service-wise. "We weren't told much about what we would be doing besides 'light construction.' Most of us were expecting that we would be cleaning out a tiger enclosure or doing yard work, " Chelsea said. Girl power really came into play when they learned that "light construction" meant concreting a tiger enclosure. To their surprise, and those at Carolina Tiger Rescue, they finished the enclosure in just three days. The girls also found themselves chopping wood, helping with office work, and sorting through donated Christmas trees the tigers could play with. The girls rewarded themselves by leaving their own "paw print" behind, writing their names along with "Towson" in the cement.

Max charges the fence
With the service came up close and personal encounters with the tigers, including fence barriers of course! During their work on the tiger enclosure, the ladies found themselves as neighbors with two tiger brothers Max and Christian. According to Dan Munn, CTR Site Manager, the tigers see turned backs as a weakness, and as a result they will charge the fence. As advised, the girls took turns watching the tigers while the rest worked. This didn't seem to matter to Max! As Max started to approach the fence, Dan attempted to get his attention vocally. In return, Max locked eyes with Dan and charged the fence with a heart-shaking roar. "We suspect Max doesn't like men!" laughed Chelsea.

One of the most memorable moments the Towson group had was listening to the stories of how the tigers ended up at the rescue facility. Getting to know the history of the cats and the workers sparked a sense of closeness between the group, the big cats, and Carolina Tiger Rescue. However, Chelsea had a special moment of her own. While photographing the big cats she met tigress, Tasha. Chelsea said, "As I was taking pictures I chuffed at her, so she wouldn't see me as a threat. She chuffed back, and I can't explain it, but I felt an instant connection with her. It's small moments like these that make me appreciative of sanctuaries like Carolina Tiger Rescue." We're right there with you, Chelsea!

Tasha meets eyes with Chelsea 
​The group had such a wonderful experience there is already talk about a trip this coming Summer. "We were able to get close to the tigers and other cats at the sanctuary. I learned so much this week about the cats and myself," Towson T4T member Kimberly Vogt said. Kimberly continued, "I didn't know everyone that I went on the trip with, but by the end of the week our group was inseparable." We are very proud of Towson T4T and their work at Carolina Tiger Rescue. If you'd like to learn more about this group, you can keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter!

Go Tigers!

Carrah Lingo
Communications Associate

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

College Daze: Costa Rica, Beyonce, and Saving Tigers!

By: Sean Carnell

Trinity University T4T had a very successful fall semester by finding ways to reach out and give back to their community. During Tiger Awareness Week, Trinity T4T raised $200 in hopes to support the tiger habitat of the San Antonio Zoo. Throughout the semester, they worked with multiple student organizations, not only to educate their peers about their mascot; but also, to bring student groups together at their holiday-themed events and t-shirt giveaway.

Tito Sandigo is a junior, double major in Business Administration: Marketing and Theater with a minor in Spanish at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

“What’s great about Trinity are the academics, and the tight-knit community on campus.  We get to know everyone on a closer level and really enjoy it,” Tito Sandigo, Trinity T4T leader.

As Tito is enjoying his winter vacation in Costa Rica with his sister, we talk about T4T.

S: We like to do these fun questions at the beginning before we get into T4T. Describe your college experience in three words.

T: Hmm… Life changing, I don’t want to say stressful, but challenging, and superb!

S: What is your favorite college-themed movie?

T: Let me think…would the Social Network count?  That would work, which is fantastic, and I love Accepted.

S: Those are awesome, now on to Tigers for Tigers! How did you get involved with Tigers for Tigers?

T: I found out about Tigers for Tigers through my sister, Gabriela Sandigo who founded Trinity T4T as a result of meeting you in Costa Rica!  I was a little skeptical at first, just because I didn’t know what it was, but it opened my eyes about the plight of tigers – which matters to me because I really enjoy animals.  Knowing that such a regal creature was going extinct is just terrifying!  So I was happy to find out that she was able to make it an official club on campus, and that is how I became involved.

S: It’s amazing to see how the relationship between your sister and I, from a study abroad program, turned into a T4T club at Trinity. What kept you interested?

T: It’s because I saw that no one was doing anything about it except for a few other people.  For me to inspire others to get this whole movement on-board with as many people as possible, kept me interested with the idea of actually making a difference, and to be a part of something that other people my age are involved in is exciting.

S: Do you see any overlap between your major and Tigers for Tigers?

T: Yes, I see it in terms of marketing our organization on campus, and within our small Trinity community.  From the business perspective, I’m gaining a greater perspective on the importance of building connections with others.

S: So what are you looking forward to with Tigers for Tigers this semester?

T: Definitely having more events and getting more of our community involved, and along with the opportunity for our members to attend the upcoming summit at LSU.

S: What advice do you have for other T4T members and leaders?

T: Stay determined.  Keep up the motivation levels of your members, and remember why we started what we are doing: to save our mascot.

 S: One more question before we head out...What is your favorite college anthem to listen to before you go out?

T: Definitely BeyoncĂ©.  Of Course!  Well right now, 7-11.  That’s a good one.

To find more information about Trinity Tigers for Tigers, please visit their Facebook page or follow them on twitter. Go tigers!

-Sean Carnell