Birthday wishes sailed from Vice Chancellor Juan Francisco Lara to Hawaii’s Pana’ewa Zoo as UCI’s officially adopted anteater Spike celebrated his one-year birthday.
Lara summoned up the Upward Bound students of the Anaheim Union High School District to pioneer the adoption. Upward Bound is a college preparation organization.
‘This came about when they went to a breakfast meeting with a community organization called ‘Los Amigos,” Lara said. ‘At the meeting Galel Kernahan who went to Hawaii, discovered this anteater, came to me and said, ‘I have a great idea, do you have any kids who want to adopt an anteater?”
When Lara was informed of Spike’s birthday on Aug. 16, he sent out an official university birthday greeting in Spanish, since most giant anteaters come from Central and South America.
Out of all the gifts Spike received, his most prized was an old, rotten log full of termites.
‘He ripped it apart,’ said Dick Mortemore, the zoo’s director. Currently, Spike’s diet consists of cat food.
In addition to the log, Lara and the Upward Bound students sent a small golden anteater to the zoo. Spike is also promised a girlfriend, five-month-old Penny Ant-E, who was recently added to the zoo from Florida.
Some may wonder why UCI’s mascot is the anteater instead of something a little more fierce. According to Samual Clyde McCullough, author of ‘Instant University,’ the anteater was chosen for its uniqueness.
‘The unusual beast won 56 percent of the vote in an election held in November 29, 1965, defeating the other nominees: eagle, unicorn, golden bear and seahawk,’ McCullough said in his publication.
In fact, the anteater is somewhat of an ‘antbear,’ McCullough said, So it does have relevance to the UC tradition of electing a bear as a mascot.
Two water polo players, Pat Glasgow and Bob Ernst, originally suggested the anteater, which was inspired by the Johnny Hart cartoon ‘B.C.’ 1965 was a time of war protest, political turmoil and riots on many college campuses.
With a brand new UC campus in Irvine, perhaps a political statement was trying to be made.
At UCI’s first intercollegiate game as the Anteaters, students cried ‘Zot!’ while the men’s water polo team won against Cal Poly Pomona 22 to 6. In ‘B.C.,’ ‘zot’ is the sound the anteater’s tongue makes when it is snatching its prey.