One with the arts, one with the Earth

Senior conveys love of the natural world through his art, his advocacy and his animals

HEAD OVER HEELS: Louisa Najar, Antonia Ortiz, and Sabri Armani-Khaldi tend the plants in the Naturalist Club. “He has an eye for aesthetics when it comes to Naturalist Club ventures,” chemistry teacher and Naturalist Club sponsor, Shelly Pringle said. Photo by Lucy Marco.

Lucy Marco, staff reporter

Teenagers these days, so lazy, not a care in the world.

Well, senior Sabri Amrani-Khaldi proves that stereotype to be doubly false. He sure isn’t lazy, and he cares a great deal about the world. He’s not only a multimedia artist but also an environmentalist, a taxidermist, a reptile lover, a dedicated vegan and a veterinary surgical intern. His passion for the earth and all of its creatures takes many forms including painting, drawing, sculpture, hiking, petting lizards, advocating for the environment, working against climate change and practicing taxidermy.

I’m saving carcasses in the freezer for whenever I get a flesh-eating beetle colony.

— senior Sabri Amrani-Khaldi

“He’s extremely self-motivated and passionate,” chemistry teacher and Naturalist Club sponsor Shelly Pringle said. “It is unique for a person his age to be so passionate about the natural world and also to be enough of a self-starter to put multi-step plans into action.”
Amrani-Khaldi was practically born an artist. From a very young age, he drew whenever he had a chance.

“I remember I used to have a sketchbook under my stroller so I could doodle while my parents went shopping or hiking,” Amrani-Khaldi said. These days, his art is directed towards portraying scenes of nature, including acrylic painting and a variety of 3D sculptures.

“It’s how I am channeling my fear for the environmental apocalypse we are beginning, as well as my admiration for the natural world,” Amrani-Khaldi said.

But among these forms of art, he also has an interest in taxidermy. Taxidermy, the art of preparing and stuffing animals to make them look true-to-life, was popular in the early 19th century. According to the Museum of Idaho, taxidermy was a way for scientists and naturalists to catalog species. His interest in taxidermy started when he was trying to figure out how to create a realistic statue of a mouse.

“I have done it a few times, and I’m saving carcasses in the freezer for whenever I get a flesh-eating beetle colony. … I had a background in herpetology, so I simply used one of my snake’s frozen feeder mice.”

Courtesy of Sabri Armani-Khaldi
Sabri Armani-Khaldi’s menagerie includes this crested gecko.

His friend, senior Louisa Najar, says taxidermy is another way for him to explore his interests in biology and animal anatomy.

“He’s got nerves of steel, man. … It shows that he’s always thinking outside the box, combining his art with other areas of focus,” Najar said.

Amrani-Khaldi really wasn’t kidding when he said he had a background in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians): he’s a surgical intern at the Austin Animal Center working 20 hours a week and the founder of the Reptile Club and the Naturalist Club at McCallum.
“He’s always tickled by how things work, especially info related to animal biology,” Najar said.

With all his knowledge of the animal kingdom, it’s no surprise that he’s good with pets. Though, he’s narrowed his menagerie down to a pair of egg-eating snakes, as he is preparing for college.

“I do still own four uromastyx lizards, six Chinese painted quail, three leopard geckos, and a crested gecko as well. I still have a lot of animals to find homes for before I start school,” Amrani-Khaldi said.
He’s also a talented leader and good friend.

There is a sureness in the way he holds himself that I think really draws people to him, and makes him such a lovely person to be around.

— Louisa Najar

“There is a sureness in the way he holds himself that I think really draws people to him, and makes him such a lovely person to be around,” Najar said.

As the founder of two clubs at McCallum, he has a flair for leadership: “He is well organized and thoughtful and has great relationships with the rest of the Naturalist Club,” Pringle said.

Since going vegan, he’s found it difficult to understand and respect anyone who is aware of their lifestyle’s damage to the environment and yet refuses to change anything about it.

“It can be frustrating to see people disregard the importance of flora and fauna,” Amrani-Khaldi said.

He idolizes Charles Darwin and Sir David Attenborough, he believes that Greta Thunberg’s international emergence as a voice against climate change proves that young people can not only have an opinion but can wield power to effect change.

With his thoughtful and unique approach to the world and its creatures and his ability to express himself in multiple media and art forms, Amrani-Khaldi is poised to do the same now and into his considerably bright future.