This past weekend, I participated as a speaker at the Second Annual National Tigers for Tigers (T4T) Summit at University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.
I came away more inspired than ever by this growing coalition of student groups who are strong advocates for big cats, both in the wild and in captivity, and who want Congress to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1998/S.1381).
T4T is the brainchild of a former Clemson grad who wanted to save endangered tigers by collaborating with students at colleges across the nation. Now 13 colleges from around the country have active T4T chapters—members have doubled from just last year. Excellent progress!
Each of the school chapters have adopted the tiger as a proud symbol of their school and are devoted to improving the status of tigers, both captive and wild. T4T’s mission statement is as follows: “Through the collaboration of students attending tiger mascot schools across the country, we aim to mobilize the public through education, improve and/or create relevant policies and take direct action to ensure the survival of the tiger.”
At the summit, I gave a presentation on the U.S. captive big cats crisis, including the latest developments in New York and West Virginia and the need for federal reform. I emphasized the fact that this campaign is as much theirs as it is mine, and that is it critical for advocates to have their own story in mind when they meet with legislators. I shared mine: when I was a kid, I was at a mall in Northeast Ohio, and I saw a guy wrestling a bear in front of a crowd. This stuck with me, sickened me. It was a key moment. Bit by bit, it began to define what it could mean to be an animal advocate.
Each of the audience members had their own story: some had seen tigers in the wild, some had seen tigers in horrible conditions in captivity, and some were eager to learn more because they love these animals and, through their schools, feel personally connected to this issue and ultimately want to see the tiger not only survive, but also thrive, in the wild.
I was met with great enthusiasm about the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. Both students and faculty proceeded to work on targeted plans to raise support for the bill and public awareness on the current plight of countless big cats in captivity.
Creating a sustainable and impassioned coalition is worth celebrating and is no small feat. I look forward to working with the T4T Coalition!
P.S.: Visit www.ifaw.org/bigcatadvocates, and share with your friends!
Article source: IFAW