Tiger (War Eagle VI)
Tiger is a 26 year old female golden eagle who thrills fans of every age and allegiance by soaring over Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., prior to each of Auburn University’s home football games. She weighs approximately nine pounds and has a wingspan of more than seven feet. Her talons can grip with an estimated strength of 450 pounds per square inch (The average person has a grip strength of 20 psi.).
Tiger is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the government agency responsible for protecting fish, wild animals and plants, and their habitats, for the continuing benefit of the American people. She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but was seized from an illegal raptor breeding operation in the mid-1980’s and taken to the TVA Raptor Rehabilitation Facility at Land Between The Lakes, Kentucky.
Following the death of War Eagle V in September, 1986, the Auburn University Alumni Association and many Auburn alumni aided in the effort to locate another golden eagle. Tiger was then discovered at the TVA facility in Kentucky. Members of Alpha Phi Omega (APO), national service fraternity at Auburn, traveled to Kentucky with funds provided by Thomas Chamberlain, an Auburn alumnus, to retrieve Tiger for her new home. She arrived at Auburn on October 8, 1986, and her career as an Auburn icon began.
In the spring of 2000, APO transferred primary care of the War Eagle Program to the Southeastern Raptor Center (SRC) at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to this time, APO provided lodging and care for Tiger, as they had done for previous War Eagles, and several members of the fraternity had been trained at the center.
Beginning with the 2000 football season, Tiger began making her thrilling flights before home football games. Perhaps the greatest recognition she and the Raptor Center have received, however, took place during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tiger flew over the ice that February night before thousands of onlookers in the Olympic Stadium and millions of viewers worldwide during the NBC broadcast. Following her outstanding performance, she was also honored as a featured guest on the February 11, 2002 edition of NBC’s “Today Show”.
Today, in addition to her starring role at Auburn athletic events, Tiger makes numerous public appearances each year, including visits to school groups and conservation societies, to promote her and the Raptor Center’s mission of conservation education about eagles and other endangered species, and the importance of environmental conservation and research in general. The charismatic Tiger, and other birds of prey like her, symbolize “typically American” values of strength and courage, as well as freedom, heritage, and the importance of preserving our country’s natural resources.
At the age of 26, Tiger herself provides the embodiment of fortitude and vigorous constitution. She survived her early years in the illegal raptor breeding operation from which she was rescued, and several moves from Missouri to her present home at the Raptor Center.
Jack: Ex-“King of the Road” Becomes King of Many Hearts
Jack is a 90 pound Alaskan Malamute who is now approximately 4 years old. He is an unusually handsome, intelligent, and intuitive fellow who, for the first few years of his life, roamed neighborhoods in Athens, Alabama, subsisting on garbage, carrion, and whatever he could catch to eat in the woods. Untrained, uncared for, and probably resigned to being unloved, he was somehow caught by someone who kept him chained up in a yard and neglected him. Eventually, Jack divined a way to escape his miserable circumstances. He ran to the home of a friendly soul who got the dog into his car and delivered him to the caring veterinarians and staff at the Country Clinic in Toney. There his medical needs were addressed, he was neutered, bathed and groomed, and well fed, and Voila! A brand new Jack was ready for a new home and a new life.
In October, 2001, this wonderful, if challenging, animal was adopted by Karmyn Tipps, an equally wonderful human, who already was sharing her home with three dogs, two cats, and many exotic tropical fish. Despite being accustomed to the life of a free spirit, Jack rather quickly settled into his new home and adjusted to the efforts of his mistress to better domesticate him and earn his trust and loyalty.
Less than a year later, shortly after Labor Day, 2002, Tipps had called it a night after grilling out and watching television, and was drifting off to sleep. Jack, who was supposed to be asleep beside her on the floor, was, instead, restless, and began panting and pacing anxiously around the room. Finally, sensing Jack’s distress, Karmyn got up to see what could be the matter. She immediately smelled smoke, and upon going into the living area, with Jack close beside her, saw that her deck and the front of the house were in flames. Karmyn and Jack made it outside to safety, but the other animals, who were in the basement, succumbed to smoke inhalation, and did not survive.
Now, two years later, Jack and his mistress, and an English Sheepdog puppy, live in a new house which was built on the site of the old one, which was completely destroyed in the fire. Jack tolerates his rambunctious puppy housemate very nicely, although he is not hesitant to assert himself as “the boss”. He rarely leaves Karmyn’s side these days. He is her companion, protector, and “watch dog”, in the truest and best sense.
Miss Baker: America’s “First Lady” of Space
Miss Baker, described by Dr. Charles R. Horton as being a “one pound stick of dynamite”, was one of a pair of monkeys (the other being Able, a rhesus macaque) sent into space aboard a Huntsville, Alabama-built Jupiter rocket and brought safely back to earth on May 28, 1959. On that historic day, the little squirrel monkey and her co-astronaut reached an altitude of 300 miles, while traveling at speeds in excess of 10,000 miles per hour. They successfully withstood forces of 38 times the pull of gravity here on earth, and achieved weightlessness for a period of nine minutes. Their mission was the first to recover living beings following their return from space, and they became immediate international celebrities, appearing on the cover of Life magazine for the week of June 15, 1959. Their courageous adventure paved the way for human space travel. Space launches carrying Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom on suborbital flights and John Glenn’s orbital flight all followed the little primates’ pioneering journey into space.
Miss Baker, a native of Iquitos, Peru, was chosen for her mission because of her tolerance for being confined in a small cylinder and fitted with electrodes for the monitoring of her vital signs. Wearing a special space suit and helmet, the tiny astronaut was observed to be only mildly startled at lift-off and at other times during the 15 minute flight. Immediately following recovery, the unflappable Miss Baker was rewarded with a banana and a cracker, which she ate, and then rolled over and took a nap.
Upon retiring from space travel, Miss Baker resided at the Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola, Florida, until 1971. At the request of Ed Buckbee, director of the newly opened Alabama Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville (now the U.S. Space and Rocket Center), she was then transferred to Huntsville. She remained there, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment especially built for her, for the remainder of her life. During those years, she succeeded in outliving her first husband, Big George, whom she had married in ceremonies conducted in Pensacola in 1962, and went on to take a second mate, named Norman. She graciously entertained all visitors to the Huntsville museum, and was especially fond of children, as she received daily fan mail from those who had either visited her personally or read about her adventures at school. Her birthday was celebrated yearly with a cake made from Jello and fruit, which Miss Baker enjoyed with her current husband standing patiently by, and with local dignitaries, press, and television commentators in attendance.
Miss Baker developed kidney failure in 1985, which proved to be her final illness. She is buried at the entrance of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, along with both her husbands. According to Ms. Irene Willhite, curator for the Space and Rocket Center, children who attend the center’s Space Camp today may place a banana on Miss Baker’s gravestone in memory of her.
It should be noted that at the time she came to live in Huntsville, the life expectancy of a squirrel monkey was thought to be nine years in captivity and 11 years in the wild. At the time of her death, at 27 years of age, she was believed to be the oldest squirrel monkey in documentation.