Having a live mascot has become extremely popular among universities, especially those in the South. The University of North Alabama, Baylor University, Louisiana State University and the University of Memphis all have live mascots.
A live mascot has been a part of Southern University's history for more than 30 years. According to a 1976 Southern Digest article, Lacumba was purchased from a local zoo in 1971 for $450.
According to Mayo Brew, from the Office of Institutional Advancement, ever since Southern acquired Lacumba, students have been paying a small fee in order to pay for her care and also for the maintenance of her habitat. The spirit of Lacumba has uplifted thousands of students.
"Unfortunately, the university's second mascot Lacumba II died of old age almost three years ago in December," said Brew. "The loss was devastating to the Southern family. Current students, faculty, graduates and community members are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Lacumba III."
Cortney Dunn, a freshman Agribusiness major from Opelousas, said that having a live mascot would bring a different vibe to the university and would also inspire more school spirit.
"Every university takes pride in its mascot," said Lenore Washington Barnett, Administrative Law Judge/Attorney. Barnett is a 1991 Southern University Law School graduate from Baton Rouge who feels that having a live mascot truly shows the school's fighting spirit.
"I am excited to hear the new plans," said Barnett.
Although that arrival will not happen as soon as students hope, plans have been made to build a new dwelling place for the much anticipated Lacumba III.
Architects have already sketched the basic outline of the new facility. Based on the drawings, Lacumba III is sure to feel at home.
The sketches show that Lacumba III will have waterfalls, a pool, scratching posts and about 10,000 square feet of roaming space.
The university also plans to include many of the plant life that jaguars are accustomed to in their natural habitats.
Intrigued students and curious visitors will have viewing areas on all four sides of the facility. It will be built in the same area as the current habitat. A viewing building will be connected to the habitat and will face Harding Blvd. The building will include exhibits on the history of Lacumba and also a wall dedicated to those who helped fund the project which, according to the Wall Street Journal, will cost $1.5 million.
Brew stated that the university does have a sponsor to pay for the construction of the habitat but the university is currently awaiting confirmation. After the sponsor gives the confirmation Southern will be able to move ahead with the plans for the new facility.
Some critics will argue that taking jaguars out of their natural habitat is harmful to their health. Despite what they believe, jaguars have been known to have extended life spans when in a zoo-like setting. According to library.thinkquest.org, jaguars have a life span of up to 18 years in the wild, but they have been found to live up to 30 years when cared for in zoos.
Also in contrast to what many believe, the jaguars provided to universities for mascot purposes are not directly taken from the wild anymore, said Sam Winslow, General Curator for the Baton Rouge Zoo.
"They are born and bred in captivity," added Winslow.
Winslow also stated that Southern would be required to place a veterinary record on public display showing that Lacumba III received the annually required vaccinations.
"The vaccines are the same for domestic cats," said Winslow.
Lacumba III will be in good hands at Southern. In the past there has been a partnership between the Baton Rouge Zoo and Southern University in which the zoo provides the necessary foods for the mascot.
Winslow stated, "They receive a prepared diet of ground horse meat with necessary vitamins and minerals."
Southern is surely looking forward to the completion of the new habitat and of course the arrival of Lacumba III.
"It's something that is really loved and treasured on this campus," explained Brew as he described the importance of Lacumba to the spirit of Southern students.
According to Brew, letters and brochures were sent to 15,000 alumni and community members in support of the Lacumba Fund. Unfortunately, the university did not receive the response that it would have liked. The university is still accepting donations. Checks need to be made out to SU Foundation Lacumba Fund. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 9250, Baton Rouge, LA 70813.