The LSU family was certainly saddened by the news that the live animal mascot Mike VI had a form of cancer and would need to undergo treatment to extend his life by a few years. Without the treatment, the beloved tiger would have died much sooner.
While Mike the Tiger will remain part of the LSU family and LSU football outings for the next few years, the inevitability of his death is on the horizon. And the question of whether there will be a Mike VII is a question mark the university will have to face.
It is no sure thing.
As Rebekah Allen of The Advocate details in a pretty exhaustive study of Mike’s history and a look at how tigers are acquired in the United States, it will not be easy to get a new tiger cub to “play” the part of Mike VII.
“A variety of experts representing zoos, exotic animal sanctuaries and animal welfare organizations say LSU could run into challenges sourcing its next live tiger without inadvertently supporting a controversial industry — the for-profit breeding and trading of wild animals in North America,” Allen writes. “Critics of that brand of breeding say it contributes to the world of dispirited roadside zoos and overcrowded private menageries that often don’t offer proper care for exotic wildlife.”
Zoos are not likely to transfer a tiger to LSU because it goes against zoo guidelines. They will only typically transfer a tiger to another zoo as part of a specific breeding plan for an endangered species. Otherwise they will not transfer to single-animal displays, but only to other zoos for a permanent home.
LSU’s tiger enclosure is not something a zoo would handle.
LSU has previously gotten its tigers from a few different animal sanctuaries. But changes in federal regulations have shut down the ones LSU has used in the past for various violations, including poor enclosures and care.
Animal sanctuaries in general do not believe in moving animals. They will not approve the sale of a cat where they are moved and displayed for single events like a football game.
“We don’t buy cats. We don’t sell cats. We don’t breed cats. You can’t touch the cats, and we don’t take them off-site to events,” said Kellie Heckman, the executive director of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. “We are the final stop. We are the forever home.”
Finding a new tiger is made all that much more difficult by these growing standards of care for these beautiful animals.
The reality may be settling in that finding a new tiger to play the part of Mike will be very difficult.