North Texas Daily

Discover Denton goes wild with Frank Buck Zoo

Discover Denton goes wild with Frank Buck Zoo

Children and their parents play with an animal brought in from a local zoo at Discover Denton Animals. Mark Baldwin

Discover Denton goes wild with Frank Buck Zoo
January 31
20:53 2018

With its glass doors open to the public, the Discover Denton Welcome Center hosted Cinnamon the hedgehog and Aussie the blue tongue skink from the Frank Buck Zoo.

The families who attended were excited to meet the animals, and so was welcome center co-manager Jake Laughlin.

“Anytime Frank Buck Zoo comes, out it’s a good day,” Laughlin said. “The more attention that we can give the zoo, the better. It’s this wonderful oasis that everyone should get to check out.”

The zoo visits the welcome center often and brings different animals to meet anyone who walks in. However, this was not the only event scheduled for the day.

Discover Denton also hosts Free Beer Friday, providing samples of local beer to the public. Fittingly enough, this particular Friday also included a promotional team from Sony Pictures’ upcoming film Peter Rabbit. Sony marketing representative Gabrielle Hall gave away rabbit ears, posters and pre-screening passes that admit a family of four.

“Usually, we look for events that have a really good match for the movie,” Hall said. “[If] they love the zoo, they’re gonna love this movie.”

Before the children met the animals, Laughlin interviewed Zoo Director Susan Kleven and the animal handlers for On top of managing the welcome center, Laughlin is also the online radio station’s manager and talks to the zoo workers about their animals whenever they visit.

Kleven feels because the zoo is smaller, visitors can have a much more intimate experience with the animals.

“We’re a circle,” Kleven said, “You don’t go off in all sorts of different directions. You’re not gonna lose anybody in your party.”

The animal attraction, formerly known as the Gainesville Zoo, became known as the Frank Buck Zoo around 1970. It was named after Frank “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” Buck. He earned his nickname because he brought exotic animals back for zoo collection during the first half of the twentieth century when trophy hunting was popular. Kleven describes him as a “pioneer of the modern zoo,” but he did even more than that during his life.

Children were able to play with small animals such as hedgehogs and skinks brought in from a local zoo at Discover Denton Animals. Mark Baldwin

“Not only did he collect animals for zoos, he also had a radio show, wrote several books [and] was in the movies,” Kleven said. “He was a very big celebrity.”

Almost a century later, his work lives on in a zoo just across the freeway from where he was born. Today, it continues to grow.

As a UNT alumna, Kleven hopes to spread awareness of the zoo among students both at UNT and TWU. Apart from bringing more people into the zoo, she also wants students to know about their summer internships. The zoo hosts week-long day camps in which college interns set up the program and train its teen volunteers.

“We’re not trying to create a legion of zookeepers,” Kleven said. “What we’re basically trying to do is give teens something really productive and constructive to do during the summer.”

Coming to Discover Denton has helped the zoo reach out to more people so much so that, according to Laughlin, the zoo will be visiting more frequently in 2018.

Discover Denton is part of the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is responsible for tourism in the city. The welcome center is meant to help tourists find things to do when they arrive. However, it is also a good way for locals to find out about interesting events.

“We want to give people little tastes of what they can enjoy in Denton in here and then point them in the direction where they can go get the full meal,” Laughlin said

Featured Image: Children and their parents play with an animal brought in from a local zoo at Discover Denton Animals. Mark Baldwin

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Camila Gonzalez

Camila Gonzalez

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