Trinity University Senior Fights for Tiger Conservation in Washington, D.C.

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Jul. 29, 2013

Trinity University Senior Fights for Tiger Conservation in Washington, D.C.

Students turn concern for tiger endangerment into political lesson

Tigers for Tigers

While attending a National Tigers for Tigers Coalition conference in Washington, D.C., members posed for a picture with Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, whom they spoke to about the tiger conservation legislation. Trinity senior Gabriela Sandigo is in the front in the green dress.

By Molly Mohr

SAN ANTONIO -With tigers around the world facing imminent extinction, senior Gabriela Sandigo decided to take action to save Trinity University's beloved mascot.

Determined to make a difference, Sandigo, a psychology major from Victoria, Texas, co-founded Trinity University's chapter of the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition with senior Alese Descoteaux, a political science major and history minor from Dallas. The student-led national organization focuses on developing initiatives to save tigers from extinction. Trinity is one of 12 colleges and universities that make up the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, and all of the member schools have one thing in common: the majestic, yet endangered, tiger as their mascot.

Tigers for Tigers

From left are Gabriela Sandigo, co-president and co-founder of Trinity's chapter of Tigers for Tigers; Humberto Sandigo, chapter secretary; and Alese Descoteaux, co-president and co-founder of Trinity's chapter.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the tiger population has drastically dropped from 100,000 animals to merely 3,200 over the past 100 years because of factors such as poaching and human interference with their natural habitats. This steep 97 percent decrease is accompanied by a 93 percent decline of tiger habitats. Without immediate action by both individuals and governments, tigers may be extinct as soon as the year 2050.

Faced with these alarming statistics, Sandigo, along with other members of the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition, went to Washington, D.C., in mid-June to turn their concern for tigers into protective legislation. They met with senators, representatives, and their assistants to discuss three issues:

· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F.W.S.) Multinational Species Conservation Fund, which supports efforts to improve wildlife security by combating wildlife trafficking, poaching, and trade operations throughout the world. The National Tigers for Tigers Coalition voiced its support for the transfer of $50 million from the United States Agency of International Development (U.S.A.I.D.) to this fund. The transfer has been introduced into the U.S. Senate Committee of Appropriations.

· The Save Vanishing Species semipostal stamp (H.R. 3510/S. 3280), which has raised more than $2.1 million toward the F.W.S. Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The Tigers for Tigers National Coalition is advocating for the re-authorization of the stamp for another four years. This re-authorization has been introduced to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

· The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (S. 1381) which places a federal ban on the ownership of exotic big cats except within accredited facilities. The bill has been introduced into the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources with 50 co-sponsors.

Soon after the students' trip to Washington, President Barack Obama issued an executive order establishing a Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which will produce a national strategy for combating illegal wildlife trade. The national Tigers for Tigers Coalition played an important role in the establishment of the order.

The most inspiring moment from the trip, according to Sandigo, was seeing how much of an impact the voices of just a few students had on Capitol Hill. "As college students, we sometimes take for granted the power we have to make a difference," she said.

Trinity's chapter of Tigers for Tigers officially became a club this past March. Since it is still in its beginning stages, Sandigo, co-president of the club, wants to raise awareness of the organization and its mission in the 2013-2014 academic year. "We are very excited about the coming school year and have a lot planned to get the student body involved," she said, such as possibly hosting a 5K race on campus. With the current legislation and actions being taken in Washington, membership, which is at about 35 students currently, is expected to increase. Sandigo especially wants to reach out to incoming first-year students "to instill in them a sense of school spirit, accompanied by pride in their mascot," she said.

Noting that "our mascot is a big part of campus," Sandigo added, "I don't think Trinity would be the same if our mascot went extinct in the wild, so it's my job to help save the tigers for future students."

Molly Mohr is a rising junior at Rice University and interns in the Office of University Communications. Originally from San Antonio, she is pursuing a major in sport management and a minor in business.