BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It has been a tradition at Louisiana State University since 1936; 79 years of having a live mascot. School officials raised $750, collecting twenty-five cents from each student, and purchased a two-hundred-pound, one-year old tiger from the Little Rock Zoo.
On the day Mike the Tiger was first brought to campus in 1936, students lined the streets of Highland Road to welcome their new mascot to the campus. Mike VI now reigns as the king of the campus.
The old enclosure for Mike the Tiger was only 2,000 square feet in size with minimal amenities. The new environment created for Mike was completed in 2005 and is over 15,000 square feet in size with lush planting, a large Live Oak tree, a waterfall and a stream. His habitat features state-of-the-art technologies, research, conservation and husbandry programs, according to LSU.
Even with the lush accommodations for the mascot, some feel keeping a live, endangered animal in a cage is wrong.
A petition was created, asking for the retirement of Mike the Tiger - indefinitely.
The petition claims that because LSU has a live mascot, it has encouraged other schools to rent big cats and keep them in small cages in conditions that are considered to be animal cruelty.
"This 'tradition' began before tigers became an endangered species," said the write up for the petition. "An institution of higher learning has the choice and the intellectual capacity to make the right decision when it comes to respecting wildlife- especially an endangered species such as the Bengal tiger. We ask Louisiana State University to retire Mike the Tiger as a school mascot and end this tradition."
The petition had a goal of 69,000 signatures, and currently has more than 68,900.
The photo used in the petition shows Mike the Tiger in the transport cage, not his habitat he lives in when he is not at a sporting event. Some feel the photo is misleading those who signed the petition. Primarily because the petition is open to anyone with an internet connection to sign, even if they have never seen Mike's enclosure.
"He doesn't live in a little trailer," said Dr. David Baker, who is Mike the Tiger's veterinarian. "He lives in a facility that's very well maintained by the athletic department. It's an excellent and healthy environment."