Schools with tiger mascots teaming up to save wild tiger populations

Mike VI, LSU’s live tiger mascot, died in October. (AP)
Mike VI, LSU’s live tiger mascot, died in October. (AP)

Tigers gotta stick together, right?

Clemson announced earlier this week that it is partnering with other schools with Tiger mascots — Auburn, LSU and Missouri — in an initiative to save tigers populations around the world.

[Now’s the time to sign up for Fantasy Football! Join for free]

“Students, faculty and alumni chant ‘Go Tigers’ on a daily basis, but not many know the truth about the animal we hold so dear,” said Brett Wright, the dean of Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences. “These universities share the tiger mascot and benefit from that majestic symbol of strength, dignity and beauty, so they share a moral responsibility to apply all of our resources to save the animal that inspires that symbol.”

The effort was started by Clemson president James P. Clements, who serves on the Global Tiger Initiative Council, which has a goal of doubling the population of tigers in the wild over the next five years. In 2016, the tiger population was on the incline “for the first time in 100 years,” Clemson’s release said.

[More college football from Yahoo Sports: 20 non-conference games to look forward to in 2017]

The estimated total of tigers remaining in the wild, however, is just 3,900. Approximately two-thirds of that total live in India.

These schools joining together has the potential to make an impact.

“Each of our institutions possess various academic disciplines important to the future of tiger conservation and protection,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of Auburn’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. “This is an obvious example of the need for multi-disciplinary contribution, not just across colleges and departments, but across universities.”

[More college football from Yahoo Sports: 20 impact transfers for 2017]

Clemson’s announcement says the four schools will pool their resources together to implement technology to monitor tigers while participating in research projects.

Wright said the consortium will focus on several avenues to achieve its goal, including research that supports evidence-based decision-making by conservation professionals. Participating universities also have planned strategic communications to raise awareness of the worldwide problem with their many stakeholders.

As far as concrete action that can take place in countries where tiger populations are most affected, Wright and Alavalapati hope to create the next generation of conservation leaders through university-supported academic scholarships and assistantships. Participating universities will equip these leaders with means to make direct change where it is needed across the globe. There will also be an emphasis on the application of technology that will allow monitoring and data analysis related to wild tiger populations.

Of the four schools involved, LSU is the only to have had a live tiger mascot. The most recent, Mike VI, died in October after a bout with spindle cell sarcoma, a rare cancer. He was 11.

The school said in January it hopes to complete its search for Mike VII by August when renovations to the school’s tiger habitat are scheduled to be completed. Unlike with its previous tiger mascots, LSU said it will not bring Mike VII into Tiger Stadium.

“Responsible care for live exotic animals has evolved throughout the years, and LSU has evolved with it, as evidenced by the renovations to the tiger habitat in 1981 and the construction of an entirely new habitat in 2004-05,” the school said. “In that vein, LSU has decided that the tiger will not go into Tiger Stadium on home football game days. He will be out in his yard seven days a week. By having Mike in his yard on game days, it ensures that fans are able to see him throughout the day.”

– – – – – – –

Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!