Monday, June 29, 2015

Why Supporting Policy in Washington Is Important

Let’s start with some basic facts. Tigers live in Asia. Asia is very large. Asia is also very far away. New Delhi, the capital of the India (the country with the largest tiger population) is 7,480 miles from our capital of Washington, D.C.

These factors add up to a common problem faced by many well-intentioned citizens who want to take action to help save wildlife and the environments they call home but feel utterly helpless to do anything.  What can an average United States citizen possibly do for tigers and other imperiled species half a world away? Well, quite a lot actually. 

Taylor Tench (Clemson T4T), Senator Time Scott (R-SC), Diane Dotson (Clemson T4T)

As a global superpower, the United States government has a stake in every international issue, and that includes endangered species conservation. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), US Agency for International Development, and the US State Department all have international conservation programs in countries around the world. Since our inception, Tigers for Tigers has been a large supporter of FWS’s Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCFs). The MSCFs allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide grants supporting on the ground conservation efforts for tigers, rhinos, elephants, apes, and marine turtles.  Past projects have benefitted tiger conservation in the forms of scientific research, law enforcement training and capacity building, and public education to reduce the demand for wildlife products.

It is important to remember that the amount of money the government makes available to the MSCFs is subject to change annually. Each year the government must create (or at least attempt to create) a new budget, which means every federal program is at risk of a reduced budget. This is where we can take action. Tigers for Tigers members have a huge voice on the Hill, and have been effective at letting our Congressmen know that tiger conservation is extremely important to us and that we need more money to support tiger conservation efforts.

In addition to funding international conservation programs, the United States is in an important position to take a leadership role on combatting the illegal wildlife trade through law. As the second largest importer of illegal wildlife products (China is #1) we have a responsibility to stem the tide of this $20 billion a year industry. Fortunately there are currently two bills in Congress that will strengthen the United States’ ability to fight the illegal wildlife trade. The Senate bill is the Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act (S.27) and the bill in the House of Representatives is the Global Anti-Poaching Act (HR. 2494). Only several days after T4T members traveled to D.C. this month to meet with their Congressman to discuss these two bills, the Global Anti-Poaching Act moved out of Committee and was introduced to the House floor. If this bill passes, it would be a huge step in the fight against wildlife traffickers, not only here in the US but also abroad. When the United States takes a stand on an issue, it is usually the start of a paradigm shift as other countries begin to follow suit.

Right now, international wildlife conservation is garnering more media attention than it has in a very long time. The wildlife trafficking and poaching crisis is at the forefront of our Congressmen’s minds. This momentum can die down at any time, which is why our voice matters now more than ever. By supporting these policy initiatives we can save tigers from the comfort of our homes. If you’re a true tiger fan call, write, or email your Congressman today and let them know you want to keep our mascot alive!

Click here to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds today.

Go Tigers!

Taylor Tench

Friday, June 26, 2015

Meet the Intern: Sierra Hoisington

The National Tigers for Tigers Coalition has recently partnered with  the Refuge Association to provide special internship opportunities for Tigers for Tigers members on various refuges throughout the country.

Sierra Hoisington, a Wildlife Biology major at Clemson University, is interning this summer at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. Sierra is a rising Junior and has been involved with Tigers for Tigers for two years. I sat down for a quick Q&A with Sierra about her internship and time at Okefenokee.

C: What have you done so far/what are your duties as an intern?

S: For the month of June, I am working in Visitor Services due to the large amount of people who visit the swamp in this month (in July, I will be switching to the Biology and Forestry Departments.) Duties associated with this part of my internship include educational outreach, maintenance of the Visitor's Center & the Environmental Education classroom, taking part in the planning & implementation of our Junior Refuge Ranger Summer Camp, teaching educational programs, and the general tasks that come up on a day-to-day basis. 
Sierra pictured fourth from the left with fellow Okefenokee interns/volunteers.

So far I've participated in multiple environmental education programs in which we travel to libraries up to an hour and a half away. There, we put on our "Oke Friends Swamp Theater" Puppet Show in which the children in attendance get to learn about the importance and threats to swamp animals such as owls, alligators, and frogs. With these programs, I either get to help out preforming the puppet show, help with the program, or I get to be one of our several mascots that the children love to get their picture with. I've also helped with our annual Children's Fishing Derby at our sister refuge, Banks Lake. That was a lot of fun because there were so many activities for the kids to learn about appreciating nature and see the swamp in a whole other light. Recently though, my main duties have been focused on the execution of our Junior Refuge Ranger Summer Camp. A lot hours has gone into planning this two week event - and our first day was today and it was a total success! (6/17/15) Some of the activities that the kids get to participate in are a Okefenokee Swamp boat tour, fishing, "Be a Wildlife Biologist", a boardwalk hike, and many many more fun things. My duties surrounding this event included every aspect of the more administrative duties to right down with being with the children at all times. 

I also had a day last week where I was able to go out with Georgia DNR and help and watch them complete some of the Gopher Tortoise studies. In the field, we completed line transects in the thick brush to look for these tortoise's burrows. Once we would find a burrow, the process of finding out if a tortoise was "home" commenced. We would then feed a camera scope down into the burrow (which can be up to 40 ft long and 10 ft deep) and see if you could spot a tortoise within the burrow. It was a very cool experience, and I'm very glad I could participate. 
Sierra as an owl as part of a library program focused on swamp education
C: Have you been to a refuge before your internship?

S: No, I have never been on a refuge prior to this internship. But now that I've seen what they can include, I'm determined to visit a bunch more!

C: What were you expecting out of your internship?

S: I was expecting a well-rounded view of what takes place on a National Wildlife Refuge. I had always heard about US Fish & Wildlife, but had never really gotten to fully see first-hand what the organization does. And honestly, after only being in this internship for about two weeks - I can say that I definitely want to work for US Fish & Wildlife at some point in my career. 

Sierra assists with the puppet show
C: What's one thing you've learned so far?

S: One thing I've learned so far is the extreme importance of education and outreach. These younger kids are our future. And if we want our wilderness to stay wild and protected, we need to educate the importance of appreciation of our wildlife and habitats to younger generations. They love to learn about animals and the environment, and it's a great joy to see their faces when they learn something new. 

C: What's it like interning on a refuge?

S: Interning on a refuge is a lot of fun! You start off the day with driving a government vehicle into work on one of the most historic swamps in the world and life can't get much better than that. Your view of the swamp lets you see American Alligators every time you look out to that water. Preparation for programs is the day to day work and the fact that you are surrounded by an awesome staff makes every day fun and different. 

C: Would you recommend the internship to other students?

S: Oh my goodness, yes! Again, I've only been on the refuge for a short amount of time but I love it and never want to leave. 

C: What's been your favorite moment/day so far?

S: My favorite day thus far was today, our first day of summer camp. The kids just had such a great time all day, but my favorite part was when we all took a boat tour on the swamp together. The kids would get so excited at every gator we saw (and we probably saw around 40-50 on our 1 hour boat ride) We got to show the kids a pair of Barred Owls perched on a Cypress tree on the edge of the canal, egrets, Great Blue Herons, and even a what we believe was a Spoonbill. Giving kids that appreciation of the swamp is something that is super invaluable and something I'll cherish for a long time. 

Okefenokee has been nominated as one of the top 10 camping sites in the US by USA Today, and it is the only national wildlife refuge to be nominated! Please cast your vote for Okefenokee by clicking the following link

Go Tigers!

Carrah Lingo
Communications Associate

Saturday, June 20, 2015

USFWS Crushes 1 ton of Elephant Ivory in Times Square

In an historic effort to reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and to raise awareness about the international poaching crisis, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service crushed 1 ton of confiscated elephant ivory in Times Square, the heart of New York City, on Friday.
Confiscated elephant ivory in Times Square

A coalition of NGOs from all over the globe, including Tigers for Tigers, came together to witness this symbolic event in one of our country’s most iconic locations. Among others, special guests included Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, actress Kristen Davis, and representatives in Congress from New York State. This year marks the second Ivory Crush event hosted by the United States - the first one occurred two years ago, in Denver.

The message is loud and clear - we need to do everything in our power to discourage illegal trade, increase enforcement and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products and parts. We cannot wait any longer and we need to take action now, before it is too late.

“If we want our children, our grandchildren, to see elephants in the wild and other species, we owe it to them to shut down the market that motivates poachers,” said Jewell.

Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewel
The U.S. Ivory Crush event is just one of several recent ivory destruction events taking place throughout the world. We hope that other countries will follow, in hopes of stigmatizing the value of illegal wildlife products. Unless a tusk is connected to an elephant, it has no value. Unless we reduce the demand, the poaching will continue. We must stand up and tell the world that this matters to us! Only by shedding light on such dark practices can we end the threat of illegal poaching.  

Over the past few years, the United States has made significant advances towards addressing wildlife trafficking, starting with President Obama’s Executive Order on Wildlife Trafficking in 2013. The establishment of a National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking followed suit, as did the introduction of the Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2015 and the new Global Anti-Poaching Act. There is still more work to be done, but we are very confident that change is coming, and Tigers for Tigers will continue to tirelessly support these efforts.

You can participate in this week’s event by spreading the message about the Ivory Crush using the hash-tag #IvoryCrush. Follow our friends @USFWSInternatl and support their great work!

For more information about the Ivory Crush, click here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

All the best,

Sean Carnell
National Coordinator
National T4T Coalition