July 21, 2015 Calgary Zoo

Zookeeper Week- Barb Campbell


It’s National Zoo Keeper Week and we’re sharing the love! To recognize the dedication and hard work of our amazing zookeepers, we are posting an interview of a keeper each day this week. This zookeeper has worked for the zoo for over 30 years! She has incredible expertise (and shared one of our favourite stories…seriously.)

Meet the Zookeeper: Barb Campbell

Q: How did you become a zookeeper?

A: “My love for animals has been lifelong- I’ve always had a love and respect for nature. My mom was the neighborhood hand-raiser of orphaned animals, and I grew up around animals. One of my sisters went into the sciences as well, so it obviously inspired both of us.”

Q: When did you start working as a zookeeper for the Calgary Zoo?

A: “I actually had a part time job at the zoo in 1979 while I was in University, and I really enjoyed working here. I was taking a Bachelor of Education, and I was inspired, so I finished by taking classes in Biology and Zoology. When I graduated in 1984, I applied to the Animal Care department as a zoo labourer, and then after I completed my apprenticeship, I became a floating keeper, working all over the zoo. I became the senior keeper in the Australian and Nocturnal building in 1997, and stayed there until 2003. I’m currently a lead keeper. It’s funny because my studies in Education are totally applicable, like when I’m leading a Behind the Scenes with visitors. I share the experiences I have with the kids, and if they can go home with a better appreciation of animals, then I’ve done my job. Those two or three kids that you inspire to work with animals can change the world.”

Q: What’s your favourite animal to work with?

A: “It’s such a privilege to work with them all, because each species is so different. That’s what is so fun! I can’t choose just one of them because they all offer something unique. I’ll walk by the tigers and they’ll chuff at me in greeting because they recognize me. In the same day I’ll work with the pot-bellied pigs, and they will be squealing a ‘hello’. There have been individuals that I’ve hand-raised (including a wolf, agouti and opossums), that I have had really close connections to, but you just love them all.”

Q: What’s a great zookeeping story that you can share with us?

A: “I have so many! One of my favourite stories is from our old nocturnal building, when I was in the Jamaican fruit bat habitat. I had to get the glass windows wet with a hose, and as I was soaking the glass, one bat flew down the sleeve of my shirt! Those fruit bats had big teeth! I threw the hose down and tried to gently flap my shirt to get it out, and it slid around to my back. In order to get the bat out, I had to rip the shirt open and shake the bat out. When I looked up, a group of students was watching me…thank goodness for sports-wear undergarments!”

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