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All for the animals: Gainesville zoo brings exotic reptile fun to Denton

All for the animals: Gainesville zoo brings exotic reptile fun to Denton

Senior keeper, Katie Krantz holds Chatu, a Royal Ball Python at the Frank Buck Zoo event at the Discover Denton Welcome Center on Friday October 20. Chatu is currently 13 years old, native to Africa and lives at the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, Texas. Sarah Schreiner

All for the animals: Gainesville zoo brings exotic reptile fun to Denton
October 22
16:43 2017

As the sun set on the Denton Square, local families and friends gathered eagerly to enjoy a windy Friday night with food and music.

But behind the doors of the Discover Denton Welcome Center, a few exotic friends joined in on the fun, thanks to Frank Buck Zoo from Gainesville, Texas.

A line of anxious, giddy locals formed in front of Katie Krantz, one of the zoo’s senior animal care keepers — a royal ball python named Chatu resting in her arms.

From wide-eyed children to their nervously chuckling parents, Krantz eagerly encouraged everyone to stroke the python’s scaly skin with two fingers while she spouted off facts about the nonvenomous constrictor.

“We love animals, and we want people to love them too,” Krantz said. “A lot of people don’t see animals up close, so it’s hard for them to care about them. If we bring them an animal up close, they can say they like that animal now and might take steps to help save them.”

Krantz knew she wanted to be a zookeeper at 8 years old. She grew up volunteering at various animals shelters, surrounding herself with helping animals in any way possible.

With a degree in animal behavior from Texas A&M University under her belt, Krantz began working at the Frank Buck Zoo three years ago and has enjoyed her daily work with the array of animals. She primarily works in the African animals section of the zoo and with specific program animals, such as Chatu.

Amanda Arnold, another senior animal care keeper, stood next to Krantz. She gave out hand sanitizer and fun facts about the zoo’s upcoming Halloween event.

Arnold works with the South American animals and carnivores while also accompanying Krantz on zoo promotions, such as this event.

“A good part of why we’re here is to educate people about the animals and why they are so important,” Arnold said. “It’s all about educating people.”

For Arnold, caring for animals has always made her the happiest, which led her to work at the zoo three years ago.

“I knew when I was little that I loved animals,” Arnold said. “There was a time when I did doubt if it was something I would do for a living. But I just had this moment when I realized I wanted to do something that makes me happy. It’s just a calling.”

As people shuffled in and out of the exhibit, admiring Chatu as well as the tarantula and toad on display, their reactions were telltale signs of who had not been in such close quarters with a python before.

Two UNT students experienced their first encounter with the snake and, while they were uneasy at first, came to agree that facing their minor fears were worth it.

Construction engineering junior Bobbie Daniels described the snake’s texture and the experience of being that close in awe.

“I’ve always had a feeling that snakes weren’t that bad — that some might be friendly,” Daniels said. “But I never touched one before tonight. After seeing one up close, I feel more confident about them.”

Aviation logistics junior Devin Medina agreed that the positive experience outweighed their initial nerves.

“I was a little scared at first [that] it was going to look at me or something,” Medina said. “But [Krantz] looked so comfortable with it, [so] I trusted it. Like, if she’s cool with it, that makes me more comfortable to touch it.”

Krantz’s comfortability with the animal came from years of doing similar events.

Both she and Arnold do everything from cleaning animal enclosures to attending birthday parties and events.

Krantz said a challenging part of the job is explaining to people what their zoo entails for the animals.

“The biggest misconception is when people think the animals are in boxes or prisons,” Krantz said. “The fact that people don’t think we even care is the hardest part. We’re always talking about the animals — even on our days off. We really do care about them.”

Despite false perceptions about her job, Krantz said at the end of the day, she and her coworkers do their best to care for every animal in their zoo and to educate people about them.

“Back in the day, zoos weren’t that great, and we recognize that,” Krantz said. “But times have changed. We have changed, and that’s on us to keep learning and changing. We do our best within our resources. As soon as we get money and funding, we’re on it. Everything we get, it’s all for the animals.”

Featured Image: Senior animal care keeper Katie Krantz holds Chatu, a royal ball python, at the Frank Buck Zoo event on Friday, Oct. 20 at the Discover Denton Welcome Center. Chatu is currently 13 years old, native to Africa and lives at the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, Texas. Sarah Schreiner

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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