WASHINGTON -- December 19 2007 -- Just in time for college football bowl season, the University of Missouri, Auburn University and Clemson University have squared off in another battle: to stop tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts. The three major universities---all with famous tiger mascots---have joined forces with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and initiated a friendly competition to see which school and its alumni can raise the most money to aid real-world tigers around the globe.
The joint effort to stop tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts is one of more than 100 individual conservation projects and programs in need of support and is featured in WWF's "Extraordinary Gifts Catalog." Launched in the fall of 2007, WWF's Extraordinary Gifts Catalog is a first-of-its-kind guide featuring unique opportunities - ranging from $1,000 to $3.5 million-- for individuals and organizations to support WWF's conservation efforts around the world.
Beginning December 13, 2007, and running through December 13, 2008; students, faculty and alumni from all three schools are encouraged to turn their legendary tiger pride into action by making donations in their schools' name to a special Web site created by WWF for the "Tigers for Tigers Challenge" at www.worldwildlife.org/tigersfortigers.
Visitors to the program site will be able to view the progressive donation amounts from supporters of each school to help gauge the level of school spirit demonstrated by each university community. As part of the program, participating universities will help raise awareness of the challenge to their extensive community of alumni, students, staff and faculty.
"The 'Tigers for Tigers Challenge' takes competition between these rivals to a new level. Students, alumni and fans of Missouri, Auburn and Clemson Universities can show their true stripes by helping to end tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger parts," said John Donoghue, senior vice president of World Wildlife Fund. "No matter which school comes out on top, the ultimate winners will be the magnificent tigers living in the wild that these donations will help protect."
An Urgent Need
While this challenge is being launched as a good-hearted, friendly competition between rival schools, the threat facing the world's tiger population is deadly serious. In 1993, the world celebrated China's domestic ban on trading tiger bones, flesh and skins. But when the cheering stopped, a sickening new enterprise began: tiger farms-where over 4,000 tigers are currently being bred for their body parts.
Today, a few Chinese businessmen are pushing the government to repeal its domestic trade ban, to open up the market for farm-bred tiger parts. With a revitalized market will come an increase in poaching, threatening dwindling populations of wild tigers across Asia. Donations from this program will help set up an enforcement network in priority places such as the Eastern Himalayas and the Mekong to keep tigers in the wild and off the market.
"Reversing the domestic trade ban on tiger parts in China will mean the sure road to destruction of many isolated populations of tigers across Asia, and an even stronger pressure on the last 5,000 tigers in the wild," said Sybille Klenzendorf, director, species conservation, World Wildlife Fund. "This program helps to address a critical conservation need to protect these threatened species-- before it's too late."
WWF works around the globe preserving a diverse selection of natural areas. Of these areas, WWF has identified 19 specific places that are of highest priority and in greater need of immediate attention. These 19 spectacular places include the world's largest and most intact tropical rain forests, the most diverse freshwater systems, the most varied coral reefs, the most biologically significant deserts, and the most productive fishing grounds.
"It is clear that without our help, tigers will be lost from the wild. The University of Missouri, Clemson, and Auburn each have existing conservation programs to help save our mascot," said Dana Morris, coordinator, Mizzou Tigers for Tigers. "The 'Tigers for Tigers Challenge' is an exciting opportunity for us to unite our efforts and engage broad support to raise awareness and funds to protect them. We have all gained by having the tiger as our mascot, and now it is our turn to give something back to tigers."