The exhibit was a perfect fusion of natural history and University history."
Tide for Tusks
Here come the elephants!” That legendary cry from a fan as Crimson Tide players rushed onto the field is one explanation for how The University of Alabama became the only major school with an elephant mascot. Now, the amazing animal that mascot
signifies is in trouble.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the African elephant could soon be extinct. The population has dwindled from several million in 1930 to around half a million today due to rampant poaching and a lack of conservation efforts.
Tide for Tusks is a nonprofit organization established by CHES graduate student Reata Strickland. It’s dedicated to raising awareness of poaching and conservation of the African elephant. In 2015, the grassroots organization partnered with the Alabama Museum of Natural History to present an exhibition related to The University of Alabama’s long history with elephants, as well as the animals’ intelligence and complex social structure, and what can be done to save them.
“The exhibit was a perfect fusion of natural history and University history,” says Dr. John Friel, museum director. “It gave visitors the opportunity, especially during football season, to come in and learn not only about the history of Big Al, but also about our ancient elephants and what we can do to help the African elephant today.”
Reata Strickland, who recently finished her master’s degree in CHES, co-founded the nonprofit in an entrepreneurship class taught by Dr. Sue Parker. Her Capstone project for her degree was the Tide for Tusks exhibition.
“Reata’s creative idea of connecting mascot Big Al with Tide for Tusks’ goal was a brilliant way to involve students, faculty, staff and alumni,” says Parker.
Randy Mecredy, former director of the natural history museum and now an Honors College instructor, accompanied Strickland on an exploratory trip to Tanzania last summer, where the two developed a partnership with the African Wildlife Trust (AWT). The trust’s founder and chairman, Pratik Patel, has also created the first elephant orphanage in Tanzania, called Ivory Orphans.
In addition to an Honors College class on elephant conservation, UA also now has a Tide for Tusks student organization with about 60 active members. Mecredy says plans are underway to take students from both the class and the organization to do service-learning projects with AWT and Ivory Orphans.
A number of campus units have joined the initiative to save the elephants through raising awareness, fundraising and resolutions of support. They include
• College of Human Environmental Sciences
• Honors College
• Office, Clerical and Technical Staff Assembly
• Professional Staff Assembly
• Tide for Tusks Student Organization
• University Museums
To learn more, go to tidefortusks.org and follow Tide for Tusks on Facebook. For more information about the museum, visit almnh.ua.edu. Faculty, staff and students enjoy free museum admission.