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Help the Cats Behind the Mascots

College students love their mascots. They paint images of mascots on their faces and bodies, wear them on their clothes, and stick them on their car windows. Now students are helping the wild animals that have inspired dozens of college mascots around the country: big cats. Across the United States, campus groups are getting involved in WWF's Pennies for the Planet campaign - which is raising money for and awareness about big cats - and WWF is inviting more groups to join in. Check out the campaign at www.worldwildlife.org/pennies.

Many big cat species around the world are threatened with extinction. This year's Pennies campaign is raising money to help protect three highly endangered big cats: the Amur leopard, the Sumatran tiger, and the snow leopard.

WWF is challenging college students to be the top fundraisers in the drive to help save the cats they so often rally behind.

On the Web site students will find information about big cats and the threats they face, stories and photos about other Pennies participants, ideas for raising money, facts to help educate others about big cats, and more. Education majors will find activities designed to teach young people about big cats and conservation in both formal and informal learning environments. Those groups who take part and send in a photo of their group will get featured on the site

These big cats need our help!

  • The Amur leopard is one of the most endangered species in the world: Only 20-30 are thought to be left in the wild. Although they used to be found throughout northeast China and the Korean peninsula, today they are confined to a single province of eastern Russia, largely due to heavy poaching. Money donated to Pennies for the Planet will be used to fund anti-poaching teams, as well as environmental education programs for Russian youth.
  • Preventing the extinction of the Sumatran tiger-which some experts think may be the first large mammal to go extinct in the 21st century-depends on a solid understanding of the tigers' movements and habits. Money donated to Pennies for the Planet will help fund an Indonesian graduate student's research on Sumatran tigers, allowing him to purchase radio collars and follow the tigers' movements.
  • Money donated to Pennies for the Planet will also go towards two snow leopard conservation projects-helping a Bhutanese wildlife research team carry out a census of snow leopards in Bhutan, and training park staff and local people to do research for snow leopard conservation in Nepal's remote northern mountains.

Last year, young people raised over $72,000 for on-the-ground conservation action through Pennies for the Planet. Students at Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, Mansfield University, Catholic University of America, and University of Montana have all taken part in Pennies for the Planet. This year, WWF is looking for greater college student involvement, particularly from those colleges with big cat mascots. Leaders of student conservation groups or other interested individuals should contact Florence Miller, Pennies for the Planet Coordinator, at 202-778-9559 or pennies@wwfus.org.