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?