Shasta makes debut at Houston Zoo
A sea of albino white and scarlet red swarmed the cougar cages at Houston Zoo Saturday to welcome the first incarnation of UH’s live mascot since 1989: Shasta VI.
The 7-month-old cougar was released into his new enclosure after speeches from UH Alumni Association President and CEO Mike Pede, Houston Zoo Director Rick Barongi and UH President Renu Khator.
“This is great because now we have a live mascot like many other major universities,” UH graduate Joey Casto said. “It’s also nice that it’s staying at the zoo … This is a way to connect our University to the public, and it’s easy to find for outsiders who want to see Shasta — easier than trying to hunt down a mascot enclosure in the middle of a confusing campus.”
Shasta VI was initially shy, but with some coaxing from handlers, he was enticed into his new home.
Unfortunately, he has good reason to be skittish; his mother was illegally shot by a deer hunter in Washington in fall 2011, and he was separated from his two brothers, both of whom now reside at the Nashville Zoo.
The UH Alumni Association — in conjunction with the Houston Zoo — has been a major part of the project to regain a live mascot for the University. Present at the unveiling were many alumni, including several members of the original Cougar Guard — an organization that handled live mascots in the past, beginning with the initial Shasta.
The alumni of this organization said they have fond memories of taking Shasta for walks and taking her to away games by either airplane or station wagon. Shasta even had a one-night stay at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas on the way home from a game.
Students are also grateful for Shasta’s return. Wey Tan, a UH senior, said he was excited that this is occurring just before his graduation.
“I think it’s awesome that I’ll get to have my ring blessed by Shasta VI before I graduate. This is perfect timing.”
Graduate student Luis Rodriguez said having a live cougar would “fuel school spirit and pride, as well as keep UH’s market brand in the public eye.”