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!