LSU, Clemson teaming up against Tiger endangerment off the field
BATON ROUGE - There is no love lost between LSU and Clemson ahead of Monday night's title game tussle. However, off the field, the two universities are partners in preserving and protecting the mascot they share.
"Our Clemson colleagues, they have been at this for several years," LSU attending veternarian Dr. David Baker said. "They are very invested in tiger conservation. They are very passionate about it."
Less than three years ago, LSU and Clemson, along with Auburn and Missouri came together to form the Tigers United University Consortium. The group aims to save tigers worldwide. That starts with stabilizing the dwindling population.
"The decline of the tiger population has been going on for a hundred years," Baker said. "Really it comes down to the loss of two things: habitat as human populations have expanded, and the loss of their prey species, their food source."
The last official count had a mere 3,890 tigers remaining in the wild.
"In 2016 they elevated that number to 3,890 and that's the first time in over a hundred years we've seen an increase," Clemson professor and consortium director Dr. Brett Wright said.
When it comes to captive tigers, the numbers are substantially higher.
"There's actually probably four or five times more tigers in the U.S. than in the wild," Baker said.
That's where both LSU and Clemson are covering all the bases. Clemson's research focuses on the wild population in 13 range countries including India.
At LSU, the primary research deals with those captive tigers in the United States.
"No one has taken any look at their genetic health," Baker said. "How inbred they are, which subspecies of tigers are represented. So that's our focus."
The four schools are hoping that together they'll have a larger footprint in the effort to avoid tiger extinction. Experts say that starts with awareness.
"My dream has been we harness the power of not only the universities but our fan bases," Wright said. It's exemplified and illustrated with this game this coming Monday, where we've got all these fans enamored with our teams and our tigers. We'd like to harness them and make them more aware of what's going on."
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