A Writer's Playground

Monthly Activities for Kids by Linda Martin Andersen

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The Return of Melissa Barr, a Zookeeper at North Carolina Zoological Park

Posted by lindamartinandersen on July 22, 2013

“The Return of Melissa Barr, a Zookeeper at North Carolina Zoological Park” posted by Linda Martin Andersen

“A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

July 21-27 is National Zookeepers Week.  To celebrate, Melissa Barr, a zookeeper at North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro, NC, agreed to return for another visit.  If you’d like to look back at Melissa’s post from July 2012, check here:


To learn more about the North Carolina Zoological Park, check here: 

nczoo.org (NC Zoo website)

nczoo.com (NC Zoo Society website)

Readers, have you been practicing your best animal cry?  If so, give Melissa a “zookeeper welcome.”  I wonder how Melissa would score your cry.

Melissa, what message do you have to share about what’s new for you at the zoo?

Hi, my name is Melissa Barr and I am a zookeeper at the North Carolina Zoological Park.  I work at the Cypress Swamp section with the alligators, cougars, waterfowl, as well as a variety of other reptiles and amphibians.

Keeper Barr feeding male gator, NC Zoo photo by Melissa Barr

Please Keep Your Chants Appropriate and Respectful of Zookeepers: 

Zookeepers are trained to practice safety when feeding animals.  Certainly we try our best.  Often pictures or video of our feedings make it look like we are closer to the animals than we are.  While feeding the alligators, visitors frequently call out chants.  Many cry out that they hope we get bitten! Even one of my son’s classmates made this chant during a field trip.  Please keep your chants appropriate and respectful of zookeepers.  Hey, we like our hands too!

An amphibian alert: 

107_0127                        107_0116 (2)

Decline of Amphibians:  Nearly one third of frogs are in danger of becoming extinct.

One of the animals I love to work with are the frogs.  We are trying to raise awareness of the decline of amphibians.  Most people don’t realize that nearly one third of frogs are in danger of becoming extinct.

Amphibians are important environmental indicators, meaning they are sensitive to environmental problems, and if something is affecting their populations, then likely something is wrong in the environment.  Amphibian populations are faced with many environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades.

Another role of amphibians is their part in the food web.  They eat mosquitos and other pests and  in turn provide food for other animals.

They have potential in medicinal research that could provide new medicines to help people.

Finally, amphibians have a countless number of diverse and interesting species. 

One thing in particular I would like to point out is that frog dissections are unnecessary in schools.  It depletes wild frog populations and could spread disease among amphibians.   A program is available for a virtual frog dissection.

Some of the things that you can do to help amphibians (and other animals too!) is to recycle, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, use less electricity, keep pollution out of all waterways, don’t take amphibians from the wild, be responsible if using herbicides or pesticides, and simply help spread the word about the importance of amphibians!  The zoo holds Amphibian Awareness Day every year at the same time as Save the Frogs Day.  The 6th Annual Save The Frogs Day will be Saturday, April 26th, 2014.  Please visit http://www.savethefrogs.com/ for more info on frogs!

We have a really cool new frog species at the Cypress Swamp.  Now, this frog isn’t a swamp species, but a part of a special exhibit that highlights the worldwide decline of amphibians and features species from around the world.  Our new addition to the exhibit is the golden poison dart frog.  It is found in the Pacific coast of Colombia.  These wild frogs are lethally toxic, perhaps the most poisonous of any animal! Most dart frogs get their toxicity from the ants they eat in the wild.  However, the golden dart frog even has some toxicity in captivity. What do you think causes their toxicity?  Stop by and see these bold, brightly colored frogs on your next visit to the zoo!

The best thing that visitors can do to show appreciation of the animals is to really show them respect.  What a wonderful opportunity it is  to see animals up close that you rarely would get to see otherwise.  Zoo animals may not be active at times, but it is never a good idea to throw things, spit, or bang on the glass.  Learn as much as possible about animals, because if you understand them and are aware of their problems, you are more likely to help them.  Learn how you can get involved in conservation or at least be aware of the impact that your actions may have on wildlife.

Melissa Barr says, “One of my favorite quotes is:  We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.  ~Native American Proverb”

Once again, let’s thank Melissa Barr for sharing her zookeeping experiences with us. Melissa, please tell all the animals in your area “Hello” from us.


Readers, please leave a question or a comment.  I encourage you to visit a zoo in your area this week or when you can.  And be sure to visit “A Writer’s Playground” again soon.  Bring a friend.

Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

7 Responses to “The Return of Melissa Barr, a Zookeeper at North Carolina Zoological Park”

  1. Off to FB this went!

  2. Thank you so much Carol. I hope others will enjoy it there.

  3. Indeed, thank you, Melissa Barr for all your good work! And thank you, Linda, for letting us get a glimpse of a great lady. Frogs are amongst my favorite amphibians… we used to have great big bullfrogs in my uncle’s pond; now on Emerald Isle we have tiny green frogs the size of my thumbnail! And of course, all life is precious.

    • Maureen,
      So glad you enjoy frogs and getting to know someone who is their keeper. Melissa was good natured about returning to share more zoo news. We are indeed fortunate.

      By the way, I love the frog you featured on an art quilt–one of my favorites.

  4. Joan Y. Edwards said

    Dear Linda,
    Thanks for having Melissa Barr for your guest again. Thank you, Melissa for your work at the zoo helping to keep our animals safe, especially our endangered species. I hope they do the virtual frog dissection.
    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

    • Joan,
      Doesn’t Melissa show passion for her job and for animals? I am so glad she agreed to share messages with us. It will be interesting to see if schools take a different approach to frog dissection, as amphibian alerts spread..

      Joan, thank you for being a faithful follower here. You are a good friend to this blog and to me.

  5. […] https://lindamartinandersen.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/the-return-of-melissa-barr-a-zookeeper-at-north-… […]

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