Bob Bestler

As a USC fan, I’ve never rooted for Clemson. But in this case, I say: “Go Tigers!”

In this Saturday, April 26, 2014, file photo, a Royal Bengal tiger prowls in Sunderbans, at the Sunderban delta, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Calcutta, India. India's latest tiger census shows a sharp increase in the number of endangered cats in the wild, raising hopes that conservation efforts are working.
In this Saturday, April 26, 2014, file photo, a Royal Bengal tiger prowls in Sunderbans, at the Sunderban delta, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Calcutta, India. India's latest tiger census shows a sharp increase in the number of endangered cats in the wild, raising hopes that conservation efforts are working. AP

As we approach the eve of another college football season, let me make a confession:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Clemson Tigers, even as they became 2017 national champions with a courageous last-minute victory over the even-more disliked Alabama Crimson Tide.

I know South Carolina has at least as many Clemson fans as South Carolina fans – and even more so here in McClellanville, where one can find bright orange Tiger paws on flags and cars and shirts. I don’t recall seeing a South Carolina Gamecock logo anywhere within town limits.

My own allegiance, to the Gamecocks, is honestly earned.

I spent time at the University of South Carolina on various assignments; my daughter graduated from Coastal Carolina University, which was once a part of the USC system; and I’ve attended a couple of Gamecock football games at Bryce Stadium.

All I know about Clemson is that it is somewhere in the Upstate. I’ve never been there and couldn’t find it without GPS or a map. And I say that despite the fact that a niece was once a Clemson Tiger cheerleader. OK, her I liked.

But overnight I have become a fan, for a reason that has nothing to do with football but everything to do with love for one of God’s most regal and beautiful creatures.

I recently learned that Clemson students, on behalf of their beloved Tiger mascot, are doing all they can to protect endangered tigers everywhere.

The Charleston Post & Courier said Clemson was spearheading a multi-university effort to save the vanishing tiger, hoping to enlist help from Auburn University, Louisiana State University and the University of Missouri, each of which has a Tiger mascot.

Using social media to raise awareness, the students hope to bring “master’s students from tiger-habitat countries to train in forestry and wildlife conservation,” the newspaper said.

Tigers in the wild are considered a seriously endangered species because of loss of habitat to developers and the continued popularity of hunting.

Amazingly, there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than are alive in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund – fewer than 4,000 in the wild and more than 5,000 held captive in the United States.

On the plus side, the number in the wild has grown from a low of 3,200 to 3,890 today.

Working with the Global Tiger Initiative, a consortium of some 40 organizations worldwide, the Clemson effort hopes to help raise that number to 7,000 by 2022.

Brett Wright, Clemson’s dean of behavioral and health sciences, said, “We’re not going to be able to save the world by ourselves. People in tiger countries are working very hard on this already and sometimes giving up their lives.”

He also stressed the importance of the tiger to Clemson University and its students: “We hold it so dear on this campus that if we lose it, it would diminish the quality of the campus experience.”

To which, this Gamecock fan can only add: Go Tigers!

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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