Animal Rights Group Asks LSU Not to Replace Mike V

BATON ROUGE, La. -- A group of animal advocates is urging LSU not to replace its recently-departed mascot with another live tiger but school officials appear unlikely to accept that idea.

"Big cats in captivity are denied everything that is natural and important to them, such as the opportunity to run, climb, hunt, establish their territory, and choose their mates," Lisa Wathne, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says in a letter to school officials.

"The LSU mascot is part of the LSU community, part of the LSU family; a tradition for 71 years," said Dr. David Baker of the LSU Veterinary School, who cared for Mike and was visibly shaken last week by the tiger's death from kidney failure. "And we intend to obtain another tiger."

LSU officials did not comment specifically on Wathne's letter Monday but offered several general responses, noting that many wildlife experts believe the Bengal tiger population in the wild is about 500 or fewer and may not be sustainable. Also, a tiger in captivity is not pursued by poachers.

Mike was moved last year into a $3 million home, complete with a bathing pool and waterfall, that offered 15,000 square feet of living space.

"The tigers we will have here will have nothing but top-notch care and facilities," LSU spokeswoman Kristine Calongne said.

PETA, citing its own figures, argues that thousands of tigers are held in private captivity in the United States. Also, Wathne said, tiger habitats should be measured in acres, not feet.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press