The Story of Emily and Ruth


  • Emily is currently 55 years old and the 12th oldest elephant in an AZA accredited zoo.
  • Emily arrived at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in 1968 at the age of four.


  • Ruth is currently 61 years old and the 3rd oldest elephant in an AZA accredited zoo.
  • At one time Ruth was owned by Benson’s Wild Animal Farm in New Hampshire and was sold in the late 70’s to a private owner.
  • Ruth’s private owner used her as an elephant-for-hire at area parades, birthday parties, and other community events.
  • In 1986 Ruth’s owner reportedly was under investigation for providing improper animal care. He fled with Ruth in a trailer one night to escape the investigation. Although all the reasons why are not completely known, the driver abandoned Ruth overnight in her
    trailer at an industrial park in Danvers, MA. The next morning workers at the industrial park discovered Ruth in the abandoned trailer.
  • As result of this abandonment, Ruth was confiscated and charges of Animal Cruelty were brought against her owner by the Boston Animal Rescue League.
  • Ruth was soon after placed with the Buttonwood Park Zoo and when she arrived at the zoo she had open sores on her feet, a traumatic injury to her ankle (presumably from being chained in the trailer) and it was discovered that she had a partial paralysis in the center portion of her trunk.

Additional Information

  • The original pairing of Emily and Ruth was not without challenges. Emily, the larger and more dominant elephant, historically displayed aggression towards Ruth. This aggression has significantly reduced in the last decade and Emily and Ruth now get along well and enjoy each other’s company.
  • The Zoo has investigated alternative homes for Emily and Ruth, but concerns with transporting the geriatric elephants over long distances, risks of integrating elephants of an advanced age into a new social group, challenges with Ruth defending herself in a new herd due to her arthritis and paralyzed trunk, concerns with alternative homes having issues with tuberculosis in their elephants, and the genuine bond Emily and Ruth have with their dedicated Buttonwood Park Zookeepers has led the Zoo to decide to have Emily and Ruth live their lives out in New Bedford.
  • The Zoo expanded Emily and Ruth’s habitat in the spring of 2018 and added features that will make them more comfortable in their remaining years in Buttonwood Park.
  • The Buttonwood Park Zoo has announced that Emily and Ruth will be the last elephants to reside at the Zoo.

Click Here to View the Full Independent Panel Review of our Elephant Program