Skyler Barker: NZKW Spotlight

It Takes a Zoo! In recognition of dedicated animal care professionals, the OKC Zoo is joining the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and zoos and aquariums across the nation to celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week (NZKW) from July 19-25, 2020.

In addition to bringing awareness to the animal care field, AAZK’s NZKW promotes professionalism and the dedication to conservation shared by all keepers.

The OKC Zoo proudly employs 52 animal caretakers, ranging in years of experience and expertise. Without these passionate and hardworking individuals, and the unwavering dedication they have toward the animals in their care, the OKC Zoo simply could not exist.

These individuals are leaders in their field, educating guests about animal conservation daily, and contributing to conservation efforts locally and worldwide.

This year, AAZK is introducing its 'It Takes a Zoo' social media campaign to showcase how caretakers collaborate with many different departments, and sometimes act as those departments in addition to their animal care jobs, to accomplish excellent animal care, conservation and education!

To honor this special week, we have selected three incredible animal caretakers to spotlight with a special Q&A session. Next up is aquarist, Skyler Barker!

How long have you worked at the Zoo?

I’ve worked at the OKC Zoo a total of six years. I actually started working at the Zoo in 2014 in the guest experience department before joining the aquatics department.

Finish this sentence: ‘It takes a zoo to…”

It takes a zoo to do what we do and conserve our oceans! Individuals can help, too, by participating in the Plastic Free ECOchallenge. Register and explore what actions you can take to reduce your plastic consumption at

How many years of experience do you have?

I have four years of experience working in aquatics with stingray, sharks and other fish species.

Why do you enjoy caring for the animals in your department?

All the animals we care for have unique personalities and quirks that make every day exciting! 

What’s your favorite thing about being an animal caretaker?

You form some of the strongest bonds imaginable with the animals you work with, and they can always spot you in a group of strangers!

Is there an OKC Zoo animal you feel a special bond with?

I tend to bond best with the juvenile/young adult Cownose stingray males more than anything. They can be the most mischievous, but they know exactly how to make my day better.

What inspired you to become an animal caretaker?

The OKC Zoo! I’ve always know that I wanted to work with animals but never had an exact path planned until I started working at the Zoo at the end of high school. Once I met the stingray, sharks and other fish here, I realized that this was my passion and what I was meant to do.

What do you want Zoo fans to know about what goes into being an animal caretaker?

It can be a mentally and physically demanding job, but it’s completely worth it, and incredibly rewarding. We have the responsibility to ensure that the animals in our care receive exceptional welfare and enrichment opportunities every day. 

Do you have a favorite animal?

Besides the aquatic animals I work with daily, I would have to say lions.



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