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Keene State Students Take Alternative Break Trip to Carolina Tiger Rescue

Keene State students at the Carolina Tiger Rescue

Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

There were no bears, but a group of Keene State College students saw plenty of lions and tigers—as well as ocelots, servals, and caracals during their recent alternative break trip to the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, N.C.

Coordinator of Community Service Jessica Gagne Cloutier, had worked several times as a volunteer at the Tiger Rescue when she was a student at Elon University. “I always had a great experience, so when we were looking for a partner to explore animal rights issues, they were an easy choice,” she said.

“The trip perked my interest because I’ve heard about protests involving animal rights at places like SeaWorld,” said Justin Mahan, a sophomore journalism major from Worcester, Mass. “I went on the trip so I could learn a lot more about the issue.”

“It was something totally different,” said Sarah Crooker, a junior safety studies major from Cheshire, Conn., and one of the trip’s co-leaders.

After touring the 55-acre sanctuary and a safety briefing, the students got right to work doing a variety of maintenance jobs, cleaning the grounds, working on a drainage problem, and fixing fences. “You don’t want a tiger getting loose,” said Crooker.

Originally a breeding facility, the organization, which currently has 44 residents, changed its mission in 1980. “Our goal is to help people understand the plight that these animals face in their natural environment as well as under human care and private ownership,” said Maryssa Hill, a volunteer coordinator.

“People see animals in zoos and movies and don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes. Some come from abusive homes and backyard breeders. If you would throw them back in the wild they wouldn’t survive,” said Lauren Smyth, a senior graphic design major from Swampscott, Mass., and a co-leader on the trip.

Begin pull-quote…“Unfortunately, I’m a senior and my alternative break adventures have come to an end. But I’m happy I’ve been able to experience two very eye-opening trips.” …end pull-quote
– Lauren Smyth

The non-profit facility has 17 staff members and approximately 150 active volunteers. Hill said the group from Keene State did a great job. “They were absolutely wonderful—from the day that they got here to the bitter end. They were committed to helping any way that they could.”

An Eagle Scout who works as an administrative assistant in the student center at KSC, Mahan said he would like to return. “It made me aware of the problem, and I’d like to spread more awareness about the issue.”

Mahan, Crooker, and Smyth are no stranger to alternative break trips. As a first-year student, Crooker went to the Outer Banks to help with local oyster harvesting and cleaning up the beaches. Last year, Mahan took part in a Habitat For Humanity trip to Florida, while Crooker and Smyth visited the Dominican Republic to work on the Wine to Water project. “Unfortunately, I’m a senior and my alternative break adventures have come to an end,” said Smyth. “But I’m happy I’ve been able to experience two very eye-opening trips.”

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