Two of the SouthCoast’s most beloved residents, Emily and Ruth, have received new enrichment items through the “Toys for Elephants” program.

The program was introduced by Rick Brown of Handshouse Studio as a collaboration between the studio, Buttonwood Park Zoo and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Buttonwood Park Zoo via Facebook

Past enrichment items created by the students at Mass Art include Emily and Ruth’s favorite steel toys, trough swing, and tire tower. In 2018, new wooden pinwheel toys, with special openings to hold the elephants’ favorite snacks, were designed to mimic elephants’ natural behavior of foraging for food using their trunks and feet. The pinwheels toys were designed to fit their personalities; Emily loves removing nuts and bolts, and Ruth likes manipulating and drumming on objects.

Buttonwood Park Zoo via Facebook

Most toys designed by the students result in the elephants receiving fun treats as a reward for their manipulation efforts.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is dedicated to ensuring the highest level of welfare for all of its animals and this includes presenting novel ways for them to forage for their diets.  One of the goals of managing animals in a zoo is to strive to “keep them engaged and stimulated by giving them unique and innovative items to experience,” says Shara Crook Martin, Buttonwood Park Zoo’s Assistant Director. “Having these talented students create these interactive enrichment items makes a tangible impact by positively increasing the activity levels of the elephants.”