There are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left on Earth. Zachary Quinto thinks we should give a damn.
Actor Zachary Quinto (“Star Trek,” “Heroes,” “American Horror Story”) talks to Upworthy about his involvement with tiger-saving campaign #3890Tigers, Trump, breakfast cereals — and tigers again.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Upworthy (UP): Why do you want to help save the tigers?
Zachary Quinto (ZQ): I’m a long-time animal lover and animal rights activist. When this opportunity came to me, I realized how much [poaching] has been affecting the wild tiger population — it was something I felt called to get involved with. There are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left in the world, which seems absolutely insane.
UP: So judging by your passion to save the tigers, is it safe to say you’re more of a cat person than a dog person?
ZQ: That’s actually not safe to say. I’m more of a dog person than a cat person. … Sorry to dispel any illusions.
UP: Do you own a dog?
ZQ: I own two dogs. I should say, I rescued two dogs.
UP: Tiger Beer is a big component of this campaign. If you could sit down and have a beer with any famous tiger —
ZQ: Tony the Tiger.
UP: Wow, I didn’t even finish the question. And why would that be?
ZQ: Because I grew up with, “Theyyyy’re great!” You know, Tony the Tiger and — what was that, Frosted Flakes, right? I loved Frosted Flakes when I was a kid. Tony the Tiger really just lodged himself in my imagination.
UP: What’s the craziest thing you’ve learned about tigers since joining this campaign?
ZQ: I would say their power and the way that they ambush, I’m fascinated by. The power of their jaws, that they can take down animals much bigger than themselves.
I would say the thing that I’m probably most moved by — as powerful as they are — they’re also really vulnerable. I feel like there’s a lot of fear associated with animals like [tigers], but they also need protection. That balance and the delicacy of that is something that I’m really interested in.
UP: As the saying goes, a tiger doesn’t change its stripes —
ZQ: Isn’t it that a leopard can’t change its spots? I think you’re mixing your feline metaphors.
UP: Oh, am I?
ZQ: I won’t hold you for that. … [laughs] I’m going with you, I’m going with you.
UP: What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve had to do where you’ve had to change your stripes — or your spots — for a role?
ZQ: I don’t know, I guess I would have to say skinning a woman alive? That’s pretty far away from my inherent nature.
UP: Was that for “American Horror Story”?
ZQ: [laughs] It was “American Horror Story,” yeah.
UP: Speaking of “American Horror Story” — you’ve played a lot of interesting characters throughout your career. Which one do you think has the most tiger-like qualities?
ZQ: Interesting. I like to use animals to kind of inform characters that I play in exploring who they are and building a character. Never used a big cat, specifically. But I guess I would say the character I played in “Heroes” maybe had some qualities of, like — he was very stealthy, and he stalked and pounced, and had some characteristics of a tiger.
UP: The Russia investigation, the Senate’s health care bill — there’s a lot of news happening right now. Why should we care about tigers?
ZQ: We’re in a moment now where we can still reverse the decline, and I think that it’s a crucial moment. That’s the key for me — to inspire people and to raise awareness is a way to do that.
UP: If you could have President Trump’s ear for a minute to talk about this issue, what would you say to him?
ZQ: I feel like, I don’t even know where to begin with what I would say to him, just in general. I’d have a lot of things to say to him, I’m sure. I feel like [this campaign is] more about rallying people. It’s about inspiring a collective voice.
I think what we can do in the face of this political climate is to really engage. Partly what drew me particularly to this opportunity and initiative is that people can get involved and spread the word, and that’s what I’m more interested in — inspiring likeminded people to rise up and raise awareness and raise money.
UP: Some people say hashtag activism isn’t real activism, but this campaign has a big social media component. Would you argue that social media activism matters?
ZQ: [Online activism] has become the real world, for better or for worse. Everyone walks around with this portal in their pocket, and we check our phones I think more often than we check in with each other sometimes. So I feel like what used to be tangible and actionable in the streets has become much more virtual and digital in the last decade.
Modes of communication have really shifted within our culture, and I feel like social media has become such an inextricably tied way of expressing yourself that I think it can be really effective. With the press of a button, you can reach millions of people, and even if just a fraction of those people stand up and do something about a cause, it really makes a difference.
The #3890Tigers campaign — a partnership between Tiger Beer and the World Wildlife Fund — aims to raise awareness and funding for tiger conservation efforts around the globe. There are just 3,890 tigers left in the wild, according to the WWF; the campaign wants to double that number by 2022 — the next year of the Zodiac tiger.
To join the efforts, supporters are encouraged to delete their profile pictures to raise awareness about the disappearing wild tiger population. Over the past 100 years, human activity has killed about 96% of the species, largely due to poaching and habitat loss.
Supporters can also create a selfie celebrating tigers on the campaign website, as Quinto has done below, to share on their social feeds, as well as donate to the WWF. Tiger Beer, which has already donated $1 million toward the nonprofit, is matching new gifts up to $25,000.
Learn more about the campaign to save the tigers and take action.
Disclaimer: Upworthy does not have a business partnership with either Tiger Beer or the World Wildlife Fund and was not paid to write about the campaign. We will always be up front with you if we were.