Otters and camels and bears, oh my! Exotic animals captivate students on Diadeloso

Among the many activities available during Diadeloso, students were able to swim with otters, meet camels and more. Claire Boston | Multimedia Journalist

Raegan Turner | Staff Writer

Bears weren’t the only animals at the university during Diadeloso 2019. The on-campus Dia festivities included a variety of creatures ranging from otters to camels. The morning schedule featured an otter swim and petting zoo at the Bill Daniel Student Union bowl, while camel meet-and-greets by the Texas Camel Corps went on through the afternoon on Fountain Mall.

Though at least one animal-centric activity is included in almost every annual Dia celebration, Tuesday was the first time Baylor students were given an opportunity to interact with otters. Other animal-related events from years past have included a sloth meet-and-greet and goat yoga, during which baby goats ran around and climbed on participants as they practiced.

The otters were kept in an area outside the SUB, and students who had signed up were allowed to enter the space to play and cuddle with the otters. Students were eager to spend their morning with the river-dwellers; all of the available sessions were filled up a week in advance.

Garland junior Emily Dickey held an otter named Tonka who actually preferred to spend his days out of the water rather than swimming around. She described her first experience holding an otter as a positive one and said she would love be able to play with another otter in the future.

“We got to hold the otter twice and pet him a little bit; he was really sweet and was whining a lot.” Dickey said. “I would definitely do it again.”

Dickey’s friend, Claremore, Okla., junior Emily Messimore, also enjoyed her time with Tonka, and said she appreciated that she was able to have an encounter with an animal that people rarely get to experience.

“It was really cool getting up close and personal with the otters because that’s not something you would do on a normal basis, so it’s really cool that they offer opportunities like that at Dia,” Messimore said.

Animal-lovers could also interact with the two camels brought to campus by the Texas Camel Corps. The Corps, which was established in order to educate the public about the historic use of camels in America during the 19th century, regularly takes people on camel treks, visits schools and museums, participates in historic re-enactments and features their camels in faith-based events.

Students were able to feed, pet and take pictures with the camels, who lounged underneath a tent on Fountain Mall all afternoon. Despite the short amount of time allotted for each student to interact with the camels, New Zealand freshman Peter Chen was confident in approaching them for the photo-op, having had previous experience with camels. Before moving to New Zealand in 2014, Chen lived in China, where he had ridden camels.

“There was a guy that was taking care of the camel and holding the rope, so I was fine. The camel was probably only as tall as me laying down,” Chen said. “I just took a photo with him; all of the people over there didn’t really get a lot of time with him, but I didn’t mind because I’ve ridden a camel before.”

The Dia festivities also included a petting zoo featuring an array of exotic animals including a lemur, a kangaroo, a tapir and more. More than petting, some students were allowed to hold and play with the animals. The line for each of the events wrapped around Vera Martin Daniel Plaza.