Save Wild Tigers Founder Simon Clinton Says Its Global Conservation Campaigns Represent The “Voice” of The Iconic Species
Simon Clinton’s affinity with tigers started while he was growing up in Malaysia in the early 1970s, and became familiar with the country’s national symbol—the Malayan tiger. This early exposure, along with a passion for conservation issues, stirred the Englishman to set up the global charity initiative Save Wild Tigers in 2011 to protect the world’s tiger population, whose numbers have fallen to critical levels—there are only 3,800 left in the wild.
“For me, the tiger is the most charismatic of all the big cats, intoxicating in its beauty yet facing threats to its very survival. It’s surely one of the planet’s most captivating species, and begs the question: ‘If we can’t save a species as iconic as the tiger, what hope do we have for the rest?’” shares Clinton.
Ironically, humans are the biggest threat to the survival of wild tigers, which are hunted for their skin, bones and meat—fuelling an illegal wildlife trade worth around £12 billion every year. Furthermore, wild tigers also suffer from the loss of their natural habitat due to factors such as deforestation set off by rapid urbanisation, further increasing the risk of human-animal conflict.
Save Wild Tigers brings a different perspective and approach to tiger conservation with its strong marketing and creative orientation. The corporate and branding worlds have “borrowed” the values and symbolism of tigers for decades—Tiger Beer, Maybank, and ExxonMobil (formerly Esso) and its famous “Put a Tiger in your Tank” advertising campaign, just to name a few—so why not do the same to help the tigers themselves? Clinton taps on his experience in helming the various operations of a global advertising agency network, and now as CEO of his own agency, The Clinton Partnership, to raise awareness of the plight of the world’s last remaining wild tigers.
“My vision is to use the imagery and symbolism of tigers to inspire all to become engaged and indeed use tigers as a hook or marketing platform to talk about the wider interconnected issues such as illegal wildlife crime and habitat destruction, which have a devastating impact on other species and habitats as well,” he explains. “Our programmes in the UK and Asia, over the past few years, have raised awareness through creatively inspiring all stakeholders.”
Hear Them Roar
Take, for example, the latest Tiger Express collaboration with luxury hotel and travel brand Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express. Contemporary Chinese artist and Save Wild Tigers ambassador Jacky Tsai, who is also the creator behind Alexander McQueen’s iconic Floral skull, and best known for his East-meets-West approach to art, was commissioned to create a tiger-inspired artwork that would remain on two of the train’s external carriages for one year. “It is inspired by a magical fantasy world where tigers roam free and live comfortably in the wild—a contrast to what’s going on in the real world,” Tsai explains.
(Related: Life In The Slow Lane Aboard Belmond’s E&O Express)
The livery was unveiled on a Bangkok-to-Singapore journey through the traditional tiger habitats of Southeast Asia in September. The windows also introduce an interaction between the design and the passengers, highlighting that both species can live together in this fantasy world, while the ripping effect reflects the realities of how humans are destroying the natural world. “There is no time to waste, no time to wait,” adds Tsai. “There is an urgency for us to save this species. Through the vibrant pop-up colours in the work, I want people to realise that if you don’t do anything, you will lose this beauty.”
Profits from the campaign—along with the £30,000 raised from the sale of Tsai’s original Tigers in Wonderland painting—will go towards creating global awareness campaigns for the cause, and funding targeted tiger conservation projects in conjunction with leading global charities such as the Environmental Investigation Agency, Wildlife Conservation and Science (Malaysia) and the Satpuda Landscape Tiger Partnership in India.
(Related: How It Is All Monkey Business For Primatologist and 2018 Generation T Honouree Andie Ang)
Save Wild Tigers also partners brands such as luxury fashion house Shanghai Tang, which recently donated a portion from the sale of its tiger‑related merchandise across its boutiques in Asia; and YTL Hotels, the hospitality arm of Malaysian conglomerate YTL Corporation, which was one of the lead sponsors of the Eye on the Tiger photographic exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2018.
The organisation also works with other ambassadors and influencers, including Dior Men artistic director Kim Jones and British actress Jaime Winstone, who “are an important part of the communications mix, and often with a large influential following themselves”, says Clinton. “All our ambassadors and influencers come from creative backgrounds, reinforcing our vision and positioning of creating inspirational messaging in order to engage the public.”
(Related: Dior Men’s Kim Jones Wanted To Be A Zoologist Before He Decided On Becoming A Fashion Designer)
Clinton cites “acting almost as a ‘voice’ for tigers through our campaigns” as Save Wild Tigers’ biggest achievement to date. “We need to change the value equation and ensure that all stakeholders, from the public to governments, understand that the tiger is more valuable alive than dead. The implications of extinction are significant and much broader than the loss of a single species, as it also includes the loss and protection of its natural habitat.”
To the consumers of illegal wildlife products, Clinton has this to say: “That bottle of tiger bone wine, or tiger skin used as home decor, not only increases the probability that the wild tiger could be extinct within a decade or two, but it’s also helping facilitate the extinction of numerous other species and interconnected habitat. Why not buy some beautiful tiger art for the home instead?” Consider this sound advice.
(Related: 6 Eco-Friendly Luxury Hotels To Stay In Malaysia For 2020)