Tigers United University Consortium continues efforts to protect wild tigers

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Although normally on opposite sides of the field, Auburn University, Clemson University, Louisiana State University and the University of Missouri have teamed up since 2017 to protect their beloved and shared mascot, the tiger.

As members of the Tigers United University Consortium, the four universities are continuing to work together to save the wild tiger population through conservation research and strategic communication plans to increase awareness about the dwindling number of wild tigers worldwide.

The formation of the Tigers United University Consortium, an idea formulated by Clemson President James Clements, came about after Timothy Boosinger, a former provost and dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn and Bob Jones, provost of Clemson University, traveled to India to see the magnificent animals in the wild and to meet with members of the Global Tiger Forum, an international conservation group.

“Wild tigers are at risk if we don’t plan well for the future,” Boosinger said. “We need to help the countries that have tigers with their conservation and education efforts, while also raising awareness at home and abroad.”

In countries where the wild tiger population is most threatened, the universities are creating the next generation of conservation professionals by providing academic scholarships and assistantships. Through these programs, the universities are also focusing on the importance of using technology to monitor and analyze data regarding the tigers.

Auburn is playing its part by enrolling students from India who have master’s degrees in a forestry and wildlife related field into the Graduate School to work toward a doctorate in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. These students conduct research on topics such as the tiger population and health dynamics, human-wildlife conflicts and habitat management.

Vasavi Prakash and Shivakumar Channapplar Maheshappa are two students enrolled in the Tigers United University Consortium program at Auburn. Prakash has completed extensive research projects on conservation efforts, while Maheshappa has been focusing on the socioeconomic impact of conservation on forest-dependent communities.

The Tigers United University Consortium is focusing on raising awareness about the decreasing wild tiger population at home as well as abroad.

Earlier this year, the consortium launched its “Team Up for Tigers” program which provides learning materials for elementary students meant to teach about the current status of wild tigers, the threats they are facing and how students can help save them. The program also focuses on the culture and people who live in the 13 tiger-range countries.

“We are collaborating with several institutions in India,” Dr. Janaki Alavalapati, the dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn, said. “The primary organizations include the Wildlife Institute of India, state forest departments, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority. We want to grow the program to someday send our undergraduates to India for study abroad.”

Alavalapati visited New Delhi, India in November 2019 to meet with key representatives and senior leadership of the Global Tiger Forum at the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

“While visiting, I had the opportunity to discuss possible options to strengthen collaborations and partnerships with the Indian government agencies to move the Tigers United University Consortium forward,” said Alavalapati. “Cost sharing between Tigers United and the Indian government will be crucial for the success of future educational programs.”

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