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:

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.


“Saving wildlife is the core of our mission…”

“Saving wildlife is the core of our mission…”

“Saving wildlife is at the core of our mission…”

Conservation means different things to everyone. For some, it means minimizing the use of resources like conserving water, energy or fuel. For accredited zoos and aquariums, like the Buttonwood Park Zoo, it means saving wildlife, which is at the core of our mission. To us, conservation is about saving species on the brink of extinction or ensuring species never reach that threatened state. Our work is about making sure future generations not only experience and learn about a vast array of wildlife but that they gain an appreciation for it and a desire to protect it.

We are currently supporting 12 CONSERVATION EFFORTS around the globe dedicating financial and staff resources to the preservation of species on the verge of extinction.

1. THE VIETNAM ELEPHANT INITIATIVE is committed to supporting the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center in protecting a sustainable wild population of elephants in Vietnam by providing high standards of care for captive elephants, and ending the use of elephants for riding, circuses and shows. Buttonwood Park Zoo funded the purchase of a portable scale to help manage and care for orphaned elephants.

2. GOLDEN LION TAMARIN (Brazil) New World Primate TAG

3. MURIQUI (Brazil) The Muriqui Project of Caratinga protects these critically endangered primates. Hunting and widespread destruction of their forests has led to their near extinction. Today only 300 muriquis live at a privately owned and federally protected reserve near Caratinga, Brazil, up from 50 in 1983. The Muriqui Project helps regenerate the forest, create corridors to connect forest fragments, and preserve and manage all conservation, research and education activities at the preserve.

4. BRAZILIAN MERGANSER (Brazil) Brazilian Merganser Recovery Program

5. SEA TURTLE (Venezuela) The Center for Research and Conservation of Sea Turtles

6. COTTON-TOP TAMARIN (Colombia) The Proyecto Tití group works to conserve these critically endangered tree-dwelling monkeys through multi-disciplinary on-site conservation programs, including manufacturing of products made by local communities using recycled plastics. The Zoo is purchasing titi posts, which are fence posts made of recycled plastic instead of wood. The result? The tamarins’ trees are saved and we help to reduce and recycle plastic in the environment.

7. JAGUAR (Belize) Belize Audubon Society



10. KARNER BLUE BUTTERFLY (USA) The New Hampshire Fish and Wildlife Service

11. MONARCH BUTTERFLY (New Bedford, MA) The Zoo maintains a seasonal butterfly garden to attract local pollinators, as well as two active beehives. In collaboration with Buzzards Bay Garden Club, New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, Bristol County Beekeepers Association, Friends of Buttonwood Park, local schools, and Monarch Watch, the Zoo is helping to design habitats and develop programs to help local pollinators, while educating the public about the importance of these beautiful species.

12. CHINESE MERGANSER (China) East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) Scaly-sided Merganser Task Force

For full descriptions of all the projects visit:

Red Pandas Coming to the Southcoast

Red Pandas Coming to the Southcoast

Get ready, the red pandas are coming to the Buttonwood Park Zoo!

Red panda New Bedford MassachusettsNot a member yet? Join!

Summer 2018, the zoo will open a new habitat for one of the most charismatic and beautiful mammal species in the world, the red panda. This new habitat, located at the entrance of the Asian elephant yard, will allow guests to become immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of this playful, bamboo-eating mammal. Red panda are indigenous to temperate forests in central Asia including China and Nepal.

This tree-dwelling mammal’s diet mainly consists of bamboo; as a result, the Zoo will be starting a community bamboo growing and harvesting program. Got bamboo? Fill out our donation form.

In the wild, red panda are considered endangered mostly due to habitat loss and poaching. The Buttonwood Park Zoo will partner with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Red Panda Species Survival Plan (SSP) as part of a breeding program focused on maximizing genetic diversity. The goal of this SSP program is to maintain a sustainable captive population of red panda to safeguard against their wild extinction.

Our conservation efforts are supported by you! Help our efforts here.