This weekend, hundreds of thousands of fans will yell themselves hoarse in support of polar bears, red wolves, wolverines, and lynx. At least the ones that appear with smiles and snarls on T-shirts and football helmets. Do these mascots bring to mind actual animals? Do fans think about population numbers and habitat destruction as they chant a critter’s name at the big game? Probably not.
But many of the animals most coveted as mascots — the largest, the most dangerous — are in deep trouble. Last week, the World Wildlife Fund reported that humans have killed off half of all the vertebrates on the planet since 1970 — and few species are harder hit than the ones with talons or sharp teeth.
Take tigers, for example. Fans spent an estimated $4.59 billion on college-licensed towels, video games, and sweatpants in 2013, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company. The tiger helped Louisiana State roar its way to the top 10 universities earning the most merchandise royalty revenue from mid-2013 to mid-’14, according to the report. The Auburn Tigers are No. 11 on the list, and the Clemson Tigers are No. 22.
But real tigers are fighting to s... Read more