The tiger is Oklahoma’s most popular high school mascot and also threatened with extinction along with 20% of all high school mascots in the state.
According to the Chinese zodiac, February 1, 2022 marks the beginning of the Year of the Tiger. It’s said that those born between February 1, 2022 through January 2, 2023, will be brave, competitive, unpredictable and confident. In Oklahoma, the tiger is revered statewide with 45 high schools choosing this animal to symbolically represent their school, making it the most popular mascot in the state. Unfortunately, the tiger is also listed as critically endangered with populations continuing to decline in the wild.
To celebrate the Year of the Tiger and raise awareness for wildlife conservation, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is hosting a School Mascot Challenge for all schools, elementary to high school, statewide. For any Oklahoma school that officially and permanently changes its current school mascot to any real, non-mythical animal or insect, the OKC Zoo will award every student, teacher and school employee with two (2) general admission tickets to the Zoo. This offer will be honored now through May 1, 2023. This challenge does not apply to schools who already have an animal or insect as their mascot.
The OKC Zoo has discovered that of 475 Oklahoma high schools, 284 schools or 60% have an animal for a mascot. Of those 284 animal mascots, 96 (34%) are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species. Oklahoma’s most popular high school mascot (45 schools), the tiger, is classified as critically endangered. All four of these classifications indicate a shrinking population in the wild due to a wide range of causes including habitat loss and poaching. Only one Oklahoma High school mascot represents an extinct animal, Southmoore High School’s Sabercats. In short, one out of five Oklahoma high school mascots is currently threatened with extinction.
“As playful as this mascot challenge may seem, our intention is serious,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, OKC Zoo’s director of conservation and science. “Even if no school accepts a new wildlife mascot, we hope that this challenge inspires students and the public to think about the state of wildlife here in Oklahoma and around the world.”
Of the top ten most popular high school mascots in Oklahoma, most are animals or insects.*
- Tigers* (45 schools)
- Bulldogs* (38 schools)
- Eagles* (30 schools)
- Wildcats* (20 schools)
- Panthers / Jaguar* (20 schools)
- Warriors (18 schools)
- Indians (17 schools)
- Pirates (15 schools)
- TIE: Lions* (10 schools classified as vulnerable) and Bison/Buffalo/Buffaloes* (10 schools, classified as near threatened)
- TIE: Hornets* (9 schools) / Mustangs* (9 schools) – both classified as least concern
Of the top 10 most popular high school animal mascots in Oklahoma, five are threatened with extinction.**
- Tigers** (45 schools) - classified as critically endangered
- Bulldogs (38 schools) – classified as least concern
- Eagles (30 schools) – classified as Least Concern
- Wildcats (20 schools) – classified as least concern
- Panthers / Jaguar** (20 schools) – classified as near threatened
- Tie: Lions** (10 schools) – classified as vulnerable and Bison/Buffalo/Buffaloes** (10 schools) classified as near threatened
- Tie: Hornets (9 schools) / Mustangs (9 schools) – both classified as least concern
- Bearcats** (8 schools) – classified as vulnerable
- 3-way Tie: Cougars (7 schools), Longhorns (7 schools), Yellow Jackets (7 schools) – all classified as least concern
- Cardinals (6 schools) – classified as least concern
55 animal and insect species are represented as mascots among Oklahoma high schools, of these only 31 represent wildlife native to Oklahoma. These include in order of popularity: eagles, hornets, mustangs, cougars, longhorns, yellow jackets, cardinals, bears, bobcats, wolves, falcons, owls, blue jays, broncos, elks, badgers, black bears, bucks, bullfrogs, coyotes, diamondbacks, donkeys, (fighting) chicks, foxes, golden eagles, grizzlies, ponies, ravens, razorbacks, red wolves and scorpions.
To receive free OKC Zoo admission tickets, schools must submit proof of mascot change as reflected on their website, athletic uniforms, yearbook, or other school property or platform. Submissions and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2015, the Oklahoma City Zoo has raised more than $500,000 for conservation through the Round Up for Conservation program. When Zoo guests contribute their spare change, these funds support conservation programs here in Oklahoma and around the world, supporting threatened wildlife including monarch butterflies, cheetahs, beaded lizards, gorillas, horned lizards, giraffes and more. For more information about the Zoo’s conservation programs, visit www.okczoo.org/conservation-projects.
The Oklahoma City Zoo is in its winter hours and open Thursdays through Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. The park is closed to the public during daytime hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through February 9. Purchase advance tickets for general admission at www.okczoo.org/tickets. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.
Stay connected with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linktree and TikTok, and by visiting our blog stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a ZOOfriends member. Starting at $45, memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org and provide access to the OKC Zoo for an entire year plus, additional benefits and discounts. To learn more about Zoo happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.