Campus holds birthday party for Leo, Una

Children celebrate Leo and Una’s birthday with balloon animals. The lions turned 14.

Children from local schools crowded around the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat to celebrate Leo III and Una’s 14th birthday April 22.

The festivities included face painting, a bounce house and refreshments.

“In the year or so that my family and I have been living here, we’ve grown quite fond of these beautiful animal mascots,” said President Kenneth Kitts. “I often refer to them as our neighbors.”

The lions have become a part of Kitts’ family, he said.

“In the South you’re taught to be polite and to be kind to your neighbors,” Kitts said. “So we make it a point to speak to Leo and Una every day, and I think they’ve gotten to know the sound of our voice.”

However, these neighbors do not come without a price.

The lion habitat costs $20,000 a year to maintain, said Interim Executive Director for UNA Foundation Judy Jackson during the event.

Leo and Una make UNA unique, said sophomore Allison Tucker.

“I think it’s really cool that we recognize (Leo and Una),” Tucker said. “No other campus has live (lion) mascots.”

These live mascots are special because they are unique to this area.

“It’s just an uncommon animal to have,” said junior Alexander Bowling.

The lions are the symbols of the university, said junior Casey Wright.

“Whenever you think of UNA, you think (of) Leo and Una,” Wright said. “So I think it’s important to celebrate their birthday.”