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Saturday, February 21, 2015


My aunt and uncle have a zoo in their backyard. 

That was one of the go-to "interesting facts" I had about myself that I liked to use during lame highschool icebreakers (being cooler than "I've been homeschooled" of course). 

Once my uncle wrestled with an alligator in my front yard.

That was another one.

This is lil sis Tessie because this picture was
easier to find than one of me in a similar pose.

My uncle is named Dave Kleven but often goes by Critterman, and for the past many years has been spreading Animal Edutainment throughout North Texas as well as many other areas of the US. 

His backyard isn't exactly a zoo, but visiting Aubrey, Texas as a kid and getting our obilgatory tour, seeing old favorites and new additions, it certainly felt like one. I remember a cougar, a wolf, owls, an albino boa constrictor (seen above, along with some more colorful friends), two baboons, praire dogs, a giant black and white african porcupine, even a parrot that would complete the three Rs-- after reduce and reuse she'd sqwak RECYCLE for a peanut. And that's only the beginning. There have been lots of animals I don't really remember because I've never really heard of them outside of his backyard!

Explaining what exactly does takes a bit of time, but here's a short documentary about him in case you feel like watching something instead of reading the rest of this post!

Critterman travels around with his "animal ambassadors" spreading knowledge of and respect for the animals through engaging and fascinating shows. His shows are aimed at children but teach the grown ups quite a bit too! He brings live animals, chosen around a theme (like Texas Tails or Squirm Factor or Safari Guide) and presents them to the kids who sit with bated breath enthralled. They learn about the animals' habitats, habits, and how to be safe around them. The braver, or luckier kids even get to come touch the animals in front of the crowd! 

Critterman in action!

Apart from the fun shows we lucky neices and nephews got at holidays and family reunions, Critterman does birthday parties, school and library shows, and much more. He even does many that are free and open to the public in the greater Dallas area! 

Uncle Dave is married to my dad's sister, Aunt Sue, and they met at a college nicknamed "America's Teaching Zoo". After working together to build Animal Edutainment, "Safari Sue" left Animal Edutainment to become the director of the Frank Buck Zoo in Gainesville, Texas, about ten years ago, and has really turned the place into somewhere great. 

Daddy and Aunt Sue!
Critterman, however, is still going strong, and not only has won many regional awards but has also appeared many times on TV and worked with wildlife celebrities like Jack Hanna, Jeff Corwin, and the Kratt brothers. Jack Hanna had this to say about the company:

"I would like to recommend the education programs that are very professionally presented by Animal Edutainment. This organization is dedicated to the preservation of our earth’s wildlife, and by teaching young people about our valuable resources, they hope to make the planet a better place to live. It’s organizations like Animal Edutainment who will provide the education for future generations. I highly recommend them for a program or presentation for your group." 
Jack Hanna 

My aunt and uncle are amazing examples of people who found their passion in life and turned it into not only a way to make a living, but a lifestyle in itself. From nursing baby Fennec foxes in their house to living with dozens of wild animals all requiring individualized care, they never stop working. I'm in constant awe of their dedication to their mission and their animals! And the fact that in the middle of all of that, they've found time to not only come to my American wedding but also the Moroccan one! It was so much fun having them here last August, and Uncle Dave even made, translated, and brought little introductions about their family to share with Othman's extended family.

Couscous with my fam, Dave, Sue, and my cousin Brenna!

Right now Critterman is having a GoFundMe fundraiser which is off to a bit of a slow start. The money raised is going to go towards providing free shows for charities in Northern Texas, and it's a great cause. 

Also, feel free to take a look, contribute if you feel so inclined, and check out their public shows and see if you or your loved ones can attend any! To get a full list go to, click on catch us on the lefthand side bar, and click on community. There's even one in Nebraska, and the list is through October, so check it out to see if there's one happening close to you!

Remember the aforementioned alligator? Wasn't kidding!
Remember the 
aforementioned awards? Wasn't kidding about them either.

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