BPZOO Welcomes Endangered Red Panda Cub

BPZOO Welcomes Endangered Red Panda Cub

The SouthCoast’s cutest family just got a little bigger – and a lot more adorable!

Update: Red panda cub, Kodo, is now out in the red panda habitat with its parents!

Buttonwood Park Zoo’s female red panda, 2 year-old Marie, gave birth to a single cub on June 4, 2020 – the first of its species to be born at BPZOO in its 126 year history. The cub has undergone initial health screenings by Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. Erica Lipanovich and at 21 days old weighed a healthy 336 grams and measured just over 10 inches in length. Mom and cub are currently bonding behind the scenes and are both doing well.

“We are beyond thrilled to announce the birth of our first red panda cub at the Zoo,” said BPZOO Director Keith Lovett. “It is wonderful that our guests will have a chance to gain even more of an appreciation of this beautiful species, but it’s also an incredible opportunity for the Zoo to be able to connect our community to the plight of the endangered red panda and our conservation efforts to help protect this species in the wild.”

According to Dr. Lipanovich, the cub will remain in the nest box, which is inside the red panda’s night house, for the next two months. “We are waiting for its eyes to open and for it to start walking. As the cub grows, its thick fur will eventually turn the iconic rusty red color that gives red pandas their name. The cub will join mom and dad outside when it can safely navigate the perching in its habitat.”

The cub will remain with Marie for at least a year.

“Marie has been a fantastic and attentive first time mother,” said BPZOO Red Panda Keeper Stephanie Durette-Medeiros. “Over the past week, Marie has started to show interest in venturing out into the habitat while the cub is napping – she’s typically going out in the morning and then again later in the afternoon. This is usually when we hear some vocalizations from the cub – demanding mom to come back inside!”

“The cub is changing rapidly as well – in addition to growing from the size of a potato to the size of an eggplant– but much fluffier of course! It’s been wriggly since day one, rolling over and flopping around trying to get its feet under itself. We saw it attempt to crawl a few centimeters last week!”

Jacob, BPZOO’s 3 year-old male red panda, has been respectful of Marie and the cub, understanding her body language and giving her space. When they are outside together in their habitat, she is relaxed and comfortable – only “yelling” at him when he approaches her fresh cut bamboo!

BPZOO’s red panda cub was introduced to adoring fans on Facebook Live on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 during a regularly scheduled “Virtual Keeper Chat”. That video can be viewed here.

Jacob and Marie were brought to New Bedford based on a recommendation as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan (SSP), which the Buttonwood Park Zoo is actively participating in. The goal of the SSP is to cooperatively manage animal populations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy and genetically diverse population while enhancing the conservation of this species in the wild.

BPZOO recently became a Partner in Conservation with the Red Panda Network by helping in their campaign to Plant a Red Panda Home in Nepal. Once restored, the critical forest corridor that connects Nepal and India will be part of the Panchthar-Ilam-Taplejung Red Panda Protected Forest in Eastern Nepal: the world’s FIRST protected area dedicated to red panda!

More information about BPZOO’s commitment to conserving endangered species can be found here.

About Red Pandas:
Red pandas, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, live in high-altitude temperate forests of Nepal, northeastern India, Bhutan and part of China. Listed as Endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, the global red panda population has declined by 50% over the last 20 years. Primarily threatened by habitat loss, red pandas are also susceptible to climate change, poaching, livestock herding and disease. It is estimated that there are less than 10,000 and as few as 2,500 red pandas remaining in the wild. Currently, there are 240 red pandas at 85 AZA accredited institutions who are working together to save this endangered species.
Primarily bamboo eaters, red pandas need to eat 20-30% of their body weight each day due to the high amount of indigestible fiber present in bamboo. Thanks to the success of the Zoo’s Community Bamboo Program, the red pandas, elephants and others enjoy various species of bamboo harvested from private landowners throughout the community.



Nature Connection Activities

Nature Connection Activities

Our favorite Nature Connection Activities – in one place!

Connecting our community to the natural world – that is what BPZOO strives to do every day. When a global pandemic forced our doors to close in mid-March, we knew we needed to find a way to help our community maintain that connection.

We did that by posting 68 different activities on Facebook and Instagram to inspire families of all ages to engage in the outside world around them – wherever they were. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve mood, and boost feelings of happiness and well-being. The natural world is also a powerful educational tool that can stimulate a child’s natural curiosity and creativity through multi-sensory, hands-on exploration and play.

BPZOO Educators have taken their favorite activities and put them in one place!

Nature Connection Activities

Did hear that Charlie’s Nature Play is now open?
Remember, it’s still BYOT- bring your own toys!




BPZOO now has a StoryWalk®!

BPZOO now has a StoryWalk®!

The Buttonwood Park Zoo, in conjunction with the New Bedford Birth – 3rd Partnership, is now home to a StoryWalk® – in 4 languages!

In July of 2020, guests to the Zoo were able to peruse the pages of the beloved children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle as they strolled the newly opened pathway around the elephant habitat. In August, the StoryWalk® was “Planting a Rainbow” by Lois Ehlert. The StoryWalk®, in addition to English, is also posted in Portuguese, K’iche and Spanish. In September, the StoryWalk® was “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle. In November, the StoryWalk® was “Pumpkin Eye” by Denise Fleming, including I Spy pages. In January, the StoryWalk® was “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle.

The current StoryWalk® for April 2021 is “Flower Garden” by Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt. Translated in 4 languages: Spanish, Portuguese, K’iche, Haitian Creole.

New Bedford Birth – 3rd Partnership’s vision is that with the support of a collaboration of community partners and families, New Bedford children are prepared to succeed in school, career, and life. They have a variety of resources for parents, caretakers, teachers and organizations – including the local community expectations for children up to age five. For more information on the New Bedford Birth – 3rd Partnership, a community wide early childhood initiative, visit their Facebook page.

Members: ArtWorks/New Bedford Art Museum, BMC Health Plan, Coastline Elderly Services, Early Childhood Consultation, Early Learning Child Care, Inc., Days of Discovery, Family Resource & Development Center (United Way of Greater New Bedford), Greater New Bedford Community Health Center (W.I.C. and Wellness Center), KDC Healthy Families/Early Intervention, Kiddie Kampus, Little People’s College (New Bedford and Fairhaven), Meeting Street Early Head Start, New Bedford Children, New Bedford Free Public Library, New Bedford Housing Authority, New Bedford Public Schools, NorthStar Learning Centers, P.A.C.E. Child Care Works and CFCE family engagement, P.A.C.E. Head Start, Reach Out and Read, Sunshine’s Place, South Coast Coalition for Early Childhood Education, United Way of Greater New Bedford, YMCA Southcoast, and Community Volunteers.

The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Storywalk® is a registered service mark owned by Ms. Ferguson.


Zoo Says Goodbye to Ursula

Zoo Says Goodbye to Ursula

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is mourning the loss of 21 year-old, American black bear, Ursula, who passed away peacefully on Monday, May 25, 2020. She was discovered by one of her keepers in the early afternoon lying comfortably in her den off exhibit.

A necropsy was performed and revealed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. The thickened heart muscle can make it harder for the heart to pump blood resulting in mild symptoms such as shortness of breath to abnormal heart rhythms or even sudden death.

Ursula was also dealing with several age-related conditions, including significant spinal degeneration and severe knee arthritis, which was discovered this fall during a routine wellness exam. She had been responding well to treatments and zookeepers had modified her habitat to make it easier for her to get around and lounge in some of her favorite sunny spots.

Kristy Kaeterle is BPZOO’s Senior Zookeeper and cared for Ursula for 20 years. She described Ursula as the Zoo’s true “real” bear.

“Ursula was the boss and everyone knew it. She may have only been half the size of Toby, but one wrong glance from her could send him running!”

Ursula was curious, playful and certainly the most fearless of all three bears but she also had a soft side for Amy and Toby – it was common to find all three bears, or some combination of them, cuddled up in a big bear ball.

Ursula was also famous for giving her keepers a laugh first thing in the morning. She had a tendency to lounge in some of the most untraditional positions – her favorite was laying on her back with her hind legs straight up against her den wall!

While she may have been best known for her sassy side, Ursula also had a sweet side – and a sweet tooth; she loved dried cranberries and honey as treats.

Ursula was one of three black bears that came to live at BPZOO in 2000. After being orphaned in West Virginia, she found a home here in New Bedford with fellow black bears, Amy and Toby. Amy was humanely euthanized in early April of this year, after her health steadily declined due to end-stage kidney disease.

BPZOO staff is devastated by the loss of Ursula but finds solace in the fact that, true to her nature, she was able to go in her own way, on her own time. We take comfort in knowing that we have provided excellent life-long care for Ursula. She will be sincerely missed.