Looking out from Cooper Library, the phrase “3200” written out in bright orange flags catches the eye: a symbol that marked the start of an impactful week.
Clemson’s 2nd Annual National Tiger Awareness Week took place this year from November 9-13th. While there are only 3200 tigers left in the wild, there are far greater numbers of tigers being kept in captivity here in America. This statistic is staggering especially when considering the harm and abuse that is often associated with private ownership of big cats. As a result, T4T at Clemson decided to sponsor a tiger at Big Cat Rescue animal sanctuary named Teisha. Teisha was rescued in October of this year from Ohio, and was taken from her owner by the United States Department of Agriculture. She was very underweight and malnourished due to her improper care in Ohio. Teisha was unable to walk and showed signs that she might not make it due to the conditions she was forced to live in. Fortunately, Teisha has pulled through at Big Cat Rescue, but she continues to have extensive medical bills. T4T at Clemson voted on supporting Teisha because we wanted to put a face on our Tiger Awareness Week and we wanted everyone on campus to be able see pictures of a real tiger they were helping with their donations. We used Teisha to draw people in over the course of our week and it was the perfect platform to engage people in discussions about the improper treatment tigers often face in private ownership. It was also a great opportunity to discuss the fact that there are more tigers in captivity in America than there are tigers in the wild, and tigers need all the help they can get both domestically and abroad to help reverse this statistic. Those that supported our efforts for Teisha during the week were very excited to see pictures of Teisha and know that all of their money will help her live a life free from any more unnecessary pain and suffering. Overall, Clemson T4T raised $1,100 for Teisha and we will be presenting the check to Big Cat Rescue during our winter volunteer trip to the facility in mid-December!
T4T club members and our Creative Inquiry team worked tirelessly the entire semester to ensure a successful and impactful week. Our goal was to have an event every day to spread our message to as many of the Clemson students, faculty, and community members as we could.
We started out our week with our 4th Annual Chicken Chowdown Wing Eating Competition. The event was held at Wingin’ It in Downtown Clemson and was a roar-ing success. We had a total of 25 participants in the contest-our largest group to date! Our club also held a trivia competition and received a percentage of the restaurant's profits that night which helped us raise even more money for Teisha. Our winners were able to select from great prizes varying from a replica Clemson football helmet signed by Andre Ellington, a gift basket from Rasberry Fizz, Bluetooth speakers, and many different gift certificates from local establishments.
On Tuesday we had a documentary showing of The Elephant in the Living Room. This award-winning documentary features Tim Harrison, director of the organization Outreach for Animals and last year’s NTAW guest speaker. The documentary explains both sides of the private ownership of exotic animals and it was a great learning experience for those who attended.
Wednesday marked our most exciting day of National Tiger Awareness Week. In the morning, we held our 3rd Annual Tiger Skit: Spot the Poacher. One of our wonderful club members dressed as a poacher and chased the tiger mascot all across campus. This skit traveled through many different parts of campus including the library, Library Bridge, the dining halls, and many large-sized classrooms.
Through social media, we are able to engage a large part of the Clemson family in an online discussion about why tigers need our help to save them from extinction and from abuses in America. Students and faculty are asked to post photos, videos, and tweets using the hashtag #saveourmascot for a chance to win free T4T merchandise and to be able to see all the different tweets from across campus and the country. It was great creating a buzz Wednesday morning with this hashtag along with many of the other tiger mascot schools that also were hosting their very own Tiger Skit at the same time.
On Wednesday night we also hosted Judy Mills, the author of Blood of the Tiger, as our guest speaker. Judy Mills is a journalist that worked with World Wildlife Fund: TRAFFIC investigating bear and tiger farming in China. Throughout the night she urged us as young people to get the word out about the horrific practice of tiger farming. Ms.Mills emphasized that we can do something about the illegal wildlife trade, and this awful trade might eventually lead to the demise of wild tigers. Students were able to ask Ms. Mills questions and purchase her book in the lobby. Through outreach with professors and Greek life, we were thrilled to have an attendance of around 300 people and it was great to see so many people learn about this unfamiliar topic of tiger farming.
Read the interview between campus newspaper, The Tiger and Ms. Mills here to learn more about her investigation into tiger farming.
On Thursday, Clemson Tigers for Tigers held two different bake sales, raising $300 in just one day. We were very excited with the results and cannot wait to do an event like this again. Club member Dorothea Dinius comments, “I really enjoyed the bake sale downtown because it gave us a chance to tell others and raise awareness of how much tigers are extinct. But it also gave us the opportunity to raise money for a tiger that we get to personally support and see how our own efforts help to provide aid to her.”
We ended our exciting week on Friday with Tiger Fest to celebrate all we had accomplished during Tiger Awareness Week. We invited many different clubs and organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Wildlife Society, Eco Reps, Clemson Animal Welfare Society, and etcetera. We also had a fun “Pie-A-Professor” activity, a photobooth, games, free giveaways, and music.
Emily Church, a club member and a part of the Creative Inquiry team, states, “NTAW was hugely successful this year because we focused on reaching out to so many different groups on campus. We tried to include sports teams, Greek life, environmental groups, etc.” And that was definitely one of our main accomplishments this year: getting our word out. We were able to raise awareness about the many complex issues that tigers face: extinction in the wild, abuse in America, and exploitation through the wildlife trade. We were featured on Clemson University’s Twitter, Facebook, and student website homepage, and our president, Jim Clements’s, twitter account. We are so thankful for all of the support we received during Tiger Awareness Week from the university and from the members of the Clemson family. Together as Clemson tigers, we can truly make a difference for tigers around the globe and together we can #saveourmascot.