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:
To seek funding to address wildlife trafficking.
To seek funding to support U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s international conservation efforts.
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.
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.”
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.
1. Letter on Wildlife Trafficking
2. Letter on Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act
Check out the rest of our photos from the trip here!