TODAY'S QUESTION: Should MU consider bringing a live tiger to campus for home football games?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | 9:22 a.m. CST; updated 12:18 p.m. CST, Monday, February 1, 2010

COLUMBIA If they can do it, why can’t we?

That’s the sentiment expressed by Tim Noce, the president of MU’s Missouri Students Association, in discussing his wish of acquiring a live tiger that MU would have at home football games. Louisiana State University and the University of Memphis, schools that share MU’s "tiger" nickname and mascot, have live tigers present at their home football games.

The Maneater and Columbia Daily Tribune reported Tuesday that Noce is looking into the idea of bringing a live tiger to MU, but all sorts of financial, logistical and ethical obstacles stand in the way.

The reports said Noce contacted a breeder who sells tigers for $13,000. But having a tiger live in Columbia would require building a specialized habitat, a highly expensive project. LSU’s Mike the Tiger lives in a $3 million, 15,000 square-foot environment, while Memphis’ Tom III lives in a custom-designed “Tiger House” valued at $700,000.

Temperatures in Louisiana and Memphis are warmer year-round than in Missouri, a factor that could make it more difficult to have a tiger at MU. Athletics department spokesman Chad Moller told the Tribune he doesn’t “think it’s very realistic” that MU could begin the project, “especially in this economically challenging time.”

No university funds are used for Memphis’ Tom III, who is supported through various private sources. LSU runs a “Mike the Tiger Campaign” through its Tiger Athletic Foundation.

An alternative Noce mentioned to having a tiger live permanently on campus would be to bring a tiger from the St. Louis Zoo for the six home football games. MU brought a live Bengal tiger to some games in the 1920s, according to a 2008 Mizzou Wire story.

Money and logic aside, the thought of housing a tiger in an unnatural habitat could draw opposition from animal rights supporters.

An update to the Tribune report quoted Janet Powell, the St. Louis Zoo’s director of public relations, as stating the zoo was uninterested in partnering with MU to bring a tiger to Columbia.

"We thank you for your recent inquiry. Although many of us at the Saint Louis Zoo are Mizzou Tiger fans, we do not use tigers for entertainment or promotional events,” Powell said. “Our tigers are acclimated to a zoo habitat which meets their physical and social needs."

Chris Koukola, an MU administrator and co-chairman of Mizzou Tigers for Tigers, which raises awareness about the endangered status of tigers and raises funds to aid wild tiger populations, told the Maneater the organization does not support captive tiger mascots.

Noce said he wants to learn what people want before pursuing the idea further. He said everyone he has talked to liked the idea and that the only negative feedback concerned costs.

Should MU pursue the idea of bringing a live tiger to home football games? How realistic is the idea? Would you be opposed to housing a tiger in a simulated habitat?


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Tim Dance January 27, 2010 | 10:32 a.m.

No. Look what happened to Sigfried or was it Roy?

(Report Comment)
Joy Piazza January 27, 2010 | 11:12 a.m.

"... Although many of us at the Saint Louis Zoo are Mizzou Tiger fans, we do not use tigers for entertainment or promotional events,” Powell said.

Thank you Ms. Powell. Nor should anyone else use tigers or other wild animals for these purposes. With all the brain power and disciplines on the MU Campus, how on earth do irresponsible --and unethical under some standards --ideas such as these get going even this far. Good grief.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 27, 2010 | 11:22 a.m.

("Should MU pursue the idea of bringing a live tiger to home football games?")

-Only if it can be trained to ride a bicycle and becomes a vegan.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 27, 2010 | 12:14 p.m.

Perhaps UMKC should consider having a live kangaroo present at their basketball games. (Like UMSL, UMKC does not play intercollegiate football.) Maybe the kangaroo can be trained to shoot layups. Maybe MU should have had the kangaroo when they recently went to Lawrence, Kansas.

(Report Comment)
Lillie Ray Levy January 28, 2010 | 3:54 a.m.

As an LSU alum, I am very partial to Mike VI and his predecessors. (I attended during Mike III's reign.) Mike has been part of LSU for 74 years--long before the debate on whether or not it was PC to do so. If our Tiger were still kept in the original cage of the first 3 Mike's, I would be the first to open the cage; but, he isn't. He was born in captivity and he lives in a wonderful habitat now. The LSU Vet school is responsible for Mike's care. Vets and medical care are available 24/7. Having a tiger as a mascot is a massive undertaking and should not be entered into without a great amount of study. My students in FL love to watch him on He is a fantastic teacher for studying endangered animals. The students connect to him and want to know how to protect him and other animals in danger of extinction. However, I would not encourage another school to begin the tradition now. I would also not suggest "borrowing" a tiger for home games. The noise of a stadium (especially Tiger Stadium) needs to be learned. Mike VI is still learning. He often balks at entering his traveling cage, and he is left to be adored by fans in his habitat outside the stadium. The enthusiasm of Tiger fans is well known and a revolt would ensue if Mike were removed now. I would suggest that rather than adopt a live tiger, MU should adopt either a tiger in the wild or an organization which protects tigers in captivity--without removing the tiger from that habitat. Use part of the revenue generated by games to make an annual donation to one of the world org.s which protect tigers. (Maybe even name one of the animals being supported.) Perhaps use a webcam like we have to develop an interdisciplinary learning unit for students throughout Missouri. (The Jacksonville Jaguars owners and the team adopted a jaguar in the Jax zoo and contribute to its upkeep. The human mascot, Jaxson de Ville, visits schools around the area.) Tigers are spectacular animals and need all of our support to be able to exist for another 1000+ year. GEAUX TIGERS!

(Report Comment)
Josie Patton January 29, 2010 | 2:56 p.m.

I'm appalled that the university is even considering the idea of bringing a live tiger to home games. It is hypocritical for a school that supports an organization dedicated to the protection of tigers to want to exploit and further endanger this animal. Unlike Oklahoma's miniature horses or Texas' longhorn steers, tigers are not domesticated animals accustomed to contact with humans. In the wild, they are in fact extremely solitary. Consider then the stress the tiger would experience when surrounded on all sides by 80,000 screaming fans and forced to travel between habitats. The effects of long-term stress on animals in captivity are devastating and ultimately result in a much reduced lifespan. Citing the use of live tigers as mascots in other universities as a justification for bringing one to Mizzou is an irresponsible cop-out. We could use our position to instead take a stand against this exploitation and perhaps influence how these other animals are being treated. Tim Noce must be speaking to a very select group of individuals, as I've raised the issue in all of my classes and the response of the students has been overwhelmingly negative. A senior student I spoke with even said he would withdraw his support as an alumae in the event that MU bought a tiger. I for one refuse to attend any game in which an animal is tortured for spectacle.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken February 1, 2010 | 6:34 p.m.

Here is my reasoning for supporting a live tiger:
There's already tigers in captivity near Columbia at rescue facilities that struggle to make enough money to care for them. Why can't the university have its own facility to care for tigers in need? No one is taking about taking tigers out of the wild. We have the ability to save tigers in captivity.

It would be a great research tool for conservation and animal science students and bring more light to the school's Tigers for Tigers program, which isn't contributed to nearly as much as it should be.

I don't agree with parading a tiger around during football games but rather a live cam of the tiger in its habitat could be played during games to raise awareness.

(Report Comment)

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