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!
For the month of July, guests to the Zoo will be 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 stroll the newly opened pathway around the elephant habitat. In August, the StoryWalk® will be “Planting a Rainbow” by Lois Ehlert. The StoryWalk®, in addition to English, is also posted in Portuguese, K’iche and Spanish.

Join BPZOO on Monday, June 29, 2020 at 11:00 am for a Facebook Live version of the StoryWalk®. One of the Zoo’s Educators will be joined by interpreters from New Bedford Birth – 3rd Partnership, who will read in Portuguese, K’iche and Spanish! The video will be available on BPZOO’s YouTube page, following the live broadcast.

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.


Wildlife Education Series

Wildlife Education Series

Now virtual, the Wildlife Education Series is an educational discussion covering a wide range of topics pertaining to Biology, Ecology, Marine Biology, Animal Behavior, Veterinary and Conservation Sciences traditionally held at the Buttonwood Park Zoo. The format of the seminars will vary based on the topic and speaker, from lecture to problem based learning, and will be geared to inquisitive individuals who are eager to learn and ask questions.

Due to COVID-19, we are offering this programming to you for FREE. If you would like to make a donation to ensure we stay connected, text BPZOO20 to 41444 or donate here.

Join us via Zoom on May 28, 2020 at 7:00pm as David McGlinchey presents “Restoring the Amazon Rainforest”
Pre-registration is required.

This past summer, global attention was focused on widespread fires in the Amazon. Fires – and related deforestation for agriculture – have destroyed 800,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest over recent decades.

Stopping deforestation is a priority, but scientists are also figuring out effective ways to restore forest. New research conducted by the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) and the Amazon Environmental Research Institute has shown that lowland tapirs can restore degraded Amazonian forests by spreading tree seeds in areas that had been previously burned.

WHRC’s Dave McGlinchey with speak about how tapirs may be among the cheapest and easiest solutions for large-scale forest restoration, according to the study. The lowland tapir (also known as the South American or Brazilian tapir) is considered endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and vulnerable by the IUCN. Their population is dwindling in the face of deforestation and hunting.

Dave McGlinchey is WHRC’s Chief of External Affairs. He is responsible for shaping the Center’s message and delivering the Center’s science to key decision-makers and the media. Dave is passionate about raising public awareness about climate change impacts and solutions and is the author of “Final Flight: 10 Northeastern Birding Spots at Risk from Climate Change.”

Dave earned his B.A. from Wake Forest University and his J.D. from Suffolk University Law School. He serves on the boards of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative and the Spatial Informatics Group—Natural Assets Laboratory. In April 2019, he traveled through Brazil with a CBS film crew to document the effects of deforestation – and the work of scientists to save the Amazon.



It’s not litter, it’s enrichment

It’s not litter, it’s enrichment

It’s not litter, it’s enrichment!


AT THE BUTTONWOOD PARK ZOO, we know that animal enrichment is a key component to animal welfare. Enrichment is one of the most important things our zookeepers do for, and with, our resident animals! The purpose behind enrichment is to stimulate each animal’s natural behavior and provide variety in its daily routine. By offering novel foods, objects, and scents, we encourage our animals to forage, explore and makes choices within their environment. The ultimate goal of our enrichment program is to enhance the welfare of the animals in our care.

EVERYONE! No matter the size or the species, every animal at the Zoo receives enrichment.

Part of what zookeepers do is to study the animals under their care so they can give them the best life possible. By understanding each animal’s unique behaviors and its natural history, our staff can create and offer a wide
variety of enrichment activities to encourage and challenge its animal instincts. Enrichment not only provides mental stimulation and exercise, but also offers a more exciting and educational experience for our guests.

All throughout the day! Of course, the frequency depends on the individual animal as well as the species. Enrichment can be categorized into the following areas: cognitive, sensory, nutritional, physical, and social. Some animals prefer certain types of enrichment, but that doesn’t stop our zookeepers from offering variety and choices.

The Toys for Elephants program, now in its 7th year, is a collaboration between the Buttonwood Park Zoo, Handshouse Studio, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The objective is for students to design and create objects and activities that will offer choices and variables for Asian elephants Emily and Ruth. Students work with a biologist and animal trainers to study animal behavior in order to design and produce full-scale functional toys for elephant enrichment.

New Elephant Enrichment Toys Courtesy of Mass Art

New Elephant Enrichment Toys Courtesy of Mass Art

New Elephant Enrichment Toys Courtesy of Mass Art


Everyone’s favorite elephants Emily and Ruth recently received some new enrichment toys, courtesy of MassArt students.

While working on their designs for the new toys, sculpture, painting, and industrial design students paid several visits to the zoo, where they had the opportunity to meet Emily and Ruth and pitch their design ideas to our staff.

What resulted were Emily and Ruth’s new wooden pinwheel toys, which consist of oak timbers and metal bolts sealed with polyurethane. These pinwheels have special openings to hold the elephants’ favorite snacks, including hay cubes and popcorn.

These new toys were designed to fit Emily and Ruth’s personalities. Emily loves removing nuts and bolts, and Ruth likes manipulating and drumming on objects.

Based on Chinese wooden puzzle toys, the new pinwheel design is intended to mimic elephants’ natural behavior of foraging for food using their trunks and feet. These new toys require Emily and Ruth to use similar efforts to retrieve their snacks.

This intriguing project stems from an untraditional class called Toys for Elephants, which was founded by Professor Rich Brown of MassArt eight years ago.

According to Brown, the class originally responded to hypothetical problems, so working with real elephants is a new experience for them. The class was excited to create something that would entertain the elephants and increase their quality of life.

Here at Buttonwood Park Zoo, we are dedicated to enhancing the experiences of all our animals.

“Part of the challenge with animals in a captive setting is to keep them engaged and give them new and innovative things to experience,” says Shara Crook Martin, our assistant director. “It makes a big difference to have the class create novel items every year.”

Past toys created by the class include Emily and Ruth’s steel toys, trough swing, and tire tower. All the toys include fun treats for them to enjoy if they can successfully maneuver them. We are excited to continue working with MassArt students and see what new designs they can come up with.

These enrichment toys are a great compliment to our newly expanded Asian elephant habitat which, by the way, is just the first step in our exciting new Master Plan. This addition gives Emily and Ruth almost double the space they had before. For more information about our Master Plan and all the fun new additions coming to Buttonwood Park Zoo, click here: https://www.bpzoo.org/master-plan/

Be sure to pay us a visit to see the new enrichment activities in action!

The Zoo’s resident coyote featured in Natural History Magazine

The Zoo’s resident coyote featured in Natural History Magazine

The Zoo’s resident coyote featured in Natural History Magazine


◙ Download of the “Coyote Continent” article HERE

Molly, the Buttonwood Park Zoo’s coyote-in-residence, makes her scientific magazine pictorial debut in a story just released in Natural History Magazine, “Coyote Continent”.  Natural History Magazine was first published in 1900 and since its founding, has chronicled the major expeditions and research findings by curators at the American Museum of Natural History and other natural history museums and science centers.

Recently the publication featured the photography of Robert S. Michelson of Braintree, Massachusetts as part of the “Coyote Continent” article. Michelson and the Buttonwood Park Zoo have enjoyed a long relationship and the Zoo is very excited about the publication and any contribution made to the understanding of the coyote population.

For this piece, Michelson was the lead photographer and producer, and coordinated efforts between Dr. Kays, the article’s lead author, and the editorial staff at the magazine.

“We have enjoyed an 8 year-long collaboration with the Buttonwood Park Zoo.  It would have been impossible for me to acquire images of true Western coyotes without the assistance of Shara Crook, and her entire staff, providing behind the scenes access to Molly, New Bedford’s famous resident coyote.” says Michelson. “As part of our collaboration, we have gladly donated copies of every photograph we acquired at the Buttonwood Park Zoo for use in education/outreach efforts.”

The Zoo is grateful for the work of photographer Robert S. Michelson and hopes the article will help further understanding of the remarkable, adaptive and intelligent coyote of North America.