The following piece appeared in the Standard Times on April 23, 2014 and can be read on


Support Your Zoo Director

By Shara Crook
Shara Crook is the curator of the Buttonwood Park Zoo and lifelong resident of New Bedford.

By now, many are aware of the campaign that has been directed at our City Council members, asking them to remove our elephants Emily and Ruth from the Buttonwood Park Zoo and send them to the Elephant Sanctuary. Make no mistake this campaign isn’t about Emily and Ruth. This is about people and organizations
that don’t want elephants in any zoo, never mind ours. I’d like to say I admire their passion, but my distaste for the tactics being used has overshadowed any respect I may have once had for them.

As a lifelong resident of New Bedford and a city and zoo employee, I refuse to sit by quietly watching current Zoo Director Keith Lovett continually criticized for doing his job and doing it well. Many will argue that I am too close to the issue to be objective. Since I have been part of the team taking care of Emily and Ruth and all
the animals at your zoo for over 20 years, you’d better believe I’m close. Three mayors, four zoo directors and dozens of staff members have come and gone. I helped tear down the old zoo, build the new zoo from the ground up, and achieve and maintain our accreditation. You’d better
believe I’m close.

Blood, sweat and many a tear have been shed by me over the years, during the good times and the bad. I’ve been here to witness births and mourn deaths. I’ve been here to celebrate the successes and work through the failures. I started at the bottom and worked my way up. There isn’t a job I haven’t done in this zoo —
including interim director — so yes, I’m close.

I’ve dedicated my professional career to your animals and your zoo, and because I’m close, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Keith Lovett is someone that you should be proud and honored to have as the director of this zoo. He is professional, passionate, and, above all, dedicated to helping achieve excellence.
The changes here during his short tenure have been phenomenal. I see it on a daily basis throughout the zoo; in the animal habitats, the grounds, animal care and education programs, in the staff. Through his efforts the Buttonwood Park Zoo received a full five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
less than a month ago.

Keith Lovett is doing an amazing job, and I am proud to be associated with him. I support his leadership and the animal management decisions he is making, and ask that the citizens of New Bedford support him as well.