The Class Menagerie

Mark Andresen

I loved the University of Texas, but college was expensive, and there was a lot of crap to deal with--student loans, expensive housing and a bus that smelled like a baby's diaper. The Zooniversity, on the other hand, costs next to nothing, and the faculty is nice enough to take all the crap with them when they go. Founded by zookeeper Allison Knox Blankenship, the Zooniversity provides fun and affordable wildlife education to schools, libraries and churches all over North Texas.

The company's classes feature all manner of travel-sized animals, from amphibians to spiders to furry little mammals--none of which are big enough to eat your children. At a typical class, you might meet species from Africa, South America and Australia, as well as Texas natives such as Emmie, the black-tailed prairie dog. Many of the animals don't seem to mind a little manhandling from time to time, allowing for close interaction that is sure to fascinate kids and adults alike. Most of the Zooniversity's "animal ambassadors" were rescued from captive mistreatment or injuries incurred in the wild, and now they enjoy luxury accommodations at the Zooniversity's home facility. The group even saved two cuddly chinchillas from death row at the fur farm.

Blankenship and her colleagues stress that their wild animals are not "pets," and often share their tiny survivors' horror stories with students to teach valuable lessons about conservation, ecology and the evils of the exotic pet trade. Don't miss your chance to learn a thing or two and--maybe, just maybe--see these charming little creatures crap all over a Garland library.


Zooniversity visits the Ridgewood Branch Library, 120 W. Kingsley Road, Garland, from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. July 28 and Central Library, 625 Austin St., Garland, from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. July 28. Call 972-979-9847 or visit

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