If numbers of the sleek creatures who serve as MU’s mascots continue to decrease, the university may have to find a new icon.
Mizzou Tigers for Tigers, a student organization on campus, has declared October to be Tiger Awareness Month at MU. The group’s mission is to build awareness of the threats facing tigers in Asia and raise funds for wildlife organizations working to save the cat’s native habitats.
One new event for this year’s program is an art exhibit by Francesca Owen called Beauty of the Beast: Tigers Facing Extinction, displayed throughout the month of October in Ellis Library, Jesse Hall, and the Reynolds Alumni Center.
“We seem to always have an art exhibit,” said Dana Morris, coordinator for the Mizzou Tigers for Tigers. “It’s a great way to connect at an emotional level with tigers. Exhibits attract people who might not otherwise be interested in tiger conservation. When they see the images, they tend to be more emotional.”
Other events include a lecture and reception, a membership drive on Oct. 19 where dinner for two at Wine Cellar & Bistro, an educational tour at National Tiger Sanctuary (south of St. Louis) and other prizes will raffled off, and a fundraiser at Noodles and Company on Oct. 29 and 30. Richard Ellis from the American Museum of Natural History will give a seminar on threats to tigers from illegal trade on Oct. 11, at 4 p.m. in 106 Lefevre Hall.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that only 5,000 to 7,000 wild tigers remain. The number of tigers and the size of their habitats have declined 95 percent over the past hundred years.
The MU Tigers for Tigers group has donated close to $20,000 towards saving the tiger programs since its inception in 1999. Their most recent donation went towards a World Wildlife Fund study in Nepal, which is documenting the presence of tigers in a reserve.
Poachers, who hunt the tigers for their furs and to sell tiger bones, are the most serious threat for these large felines, Morris said. If the researchers can provide proof that a substantial number of tigers prowl in the reserve, the government would make the area into a national park, providing a lot more protection against poachers.
Morris expressed a hope that all members of the MU community would contribute to the efforts to conserve the tigers of the world. It would be great “if we could share the love, not just for MU tigers and Truman, but for wild tigers as well,” she said. “It would be a tragedy to have an extinct mascot.”