Students share campus with exotic creatures

Sophomore Jacqueline Villavicencio was eating a muffin on the way to class when it fell to the floor. Before she could pick it up, a squirrel had spotted it from a distance and snatched it.

The squirrel is one of many animals that make a home at the University of Miami, along with crocodiles, iguanas, macaws, flying fish and the campus mascot, the ibis.

“The wildlife gives a more exotic feel to the campus,” senior Pavi Raj said. “There are also a great amount of lizards.”

Theodore Fleming, a biology professor at UM, identified the large, bright green lizards that students see around campus as the Cuban Knight Anole. They are native to Cuba and are descendants of the anoles brought to Miami as pets by Cuban immigrants.

The macaw, a blue and yellow parrot species, are often heard on campus squawking – a mechanism to keep the flock together.

Senior Robin Clayton enjoys the sound.

“It’s nice to hear something besides manmade things on the way to class every day,” she said.

Macaws, however, aren’t the only birds that live on campus. Employees and customers of the Rathskeller often encounter black, iridescent birds called grackles stealing food.

“They’ve become so used to people that they’ve become bold,” Fleming explained.

Senior Corinne Stokes, who has worked at the Rat for four years, says the grackles come close to outdoor tables and annoy customers.

Other animals, such as alligators, crocodiles and manatees, enter campus via the canal system and inhabit Lake Osceola. UM is one of two campuses in the United States to have manatees.

Twice this semester, a crocodile has left Lake Osceola to cross the street near a group of students. No one was hurt, including the crocodile.

As long as students keep their distance from the animals, the chances are “infinitesimally small” that they’ll be attacked, Fleming said.

“These crocodiles never threatened anyone and by nature are very shy,” Fleming said.

“There’s no reason to think they would bother anyone.”

Anthony Minerva may be contacted at Samyog Pokhrel-Willett may be contacted at