BPZOO Welcomes New Director

BPZOO Welcomes New Director

Buttonwood Park Zoo Welcomes New Zoo Director

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is proud to announce Gary Lunsford as the Director of Zoological Services for the City of New Bedford. Lunsford’s 27-year zoo career spans across five institutions and two countries. He comes to BPZOO from the Milwaukee County Zoo where he served as Director of Animal Management & Health before accepting the role in New Bedford.

“I am thrilled to join the Buttonwood Park Zoo and the City of New Bedford as the Director of Zoological Services,” said Lunsford. “I am excited to move forward with the redevelopment of the Zoo and working towards the Master Plan coming to fruition.”

Lunsford started his zoo career in 1995 in the Aquatics facilities of the Oklahoma Zoo & Botanical Garden. He later relocated to the Tulsa Zoo & Living Museum where he served as Zookeeper, Area Supervisor, Curator and Zoo Registrar. He then became a part of the Zoo leadership team in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he served as Head of Animal Care, Director of Zoological Operations and Senior Director of Animal Care and Conservation for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. During his time in Winnipeg, the Zoo team achieved their first accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), as well as commissioning of the $90 million Journey to Churchill capital project.

“We are thrilled to have Gary onboard and to have him lead BPZOO into the next phase of redevelopment,” says Sarah Henry, Executive Director of the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society. “He is extremely passionate about conservation projects and will ensure the Zoo remains at the forefront of location conservation efforts while building on the support we provide to global projects.”

In addition to his work within the accredited zoo community, Lunsford currently serves the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, an accrediting body dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums, as a zoo accreditation inspector, as well as a member of the Bear Taxon Advisory Group, the Polar Bear Species Survival Plan® program and the Annual Conference Program Committee.

Having spent many years at institutions that are more than twice the size of BPZOO, Lunsford says that what BPZOO lacks in acreage, it makes up for in charisma and charm.

“One of the things that struck me the most about this Zoo was the beautiful city around it, that clearly loves and supports the Zoo. BPZOO provides an important service to New Bedford and the surrounding communities,” Lunsford went on to say. “It is important that we continue to meet the needs of the community, where they are, by expanding and enhancing our various program offerings.”

Although picking a favorite species is never an easy task for someone who has spent almost three decades caring for so many of them, Lunsford admits to having a soft spot for all aquatic species and marine mammals, with a particular passion for turtles and polar bears.

Elephant Appreciation Day

Elephant Appreciation Day


Elephant Appreciation Day at BPZOO is happening on Sunday, September 25, 2022 and we welcome you to join us in honoring and celebrating Ruth and Emily! Can you believe that Ruth is turning 64 and Emily is turning 58!? Stop by the Asian elephant habitat for educational activities from 11:00am – 2:00pm, with a Happy Birthday sing-a-long & special enrichment happening at 1:00pm.

Did you know – Ruth and Emily are among the oldest Asian elephants in North America? It is an honor and a privilege to provide a home for these beautiful elephants and we welcome the community to join us in honoring them!

If you would like to bring Emily and Ruth a special treat, donations of unopened packages of unsalted shelled peanuts, yogurt covered raisins, and dried fruit will be accepted on their behalf.

The Asian elephants you know and love living in zoos and human care serve as ambassadors to inspire people to care about their preservation. From Sunday, September 18 – 25, all Coins for Conservation donations will go directly towards in-situ elephant conservation.

Asian elephant numbers are 10 times lower than those of African elephants. Worldwide, the estimate is that only 40,000 – 50,000 remain. Lack of habitat, competition for resources, and development have left about a third of all Asian elephants reliant on some form of managed care. We need to find ways for humans and elephants to peacefully coexist to save the species. AZA facilities and affiliated conservation organizations are doing just this, in order to ensure this magnificent species will remain for generations to come!

You can make a donation in their honor that goes directly towards Asian elephant conservation.


BPZOO is dedicated to protecting wildlife and wild places.