New Bedford Welcomes New Buttonwood Park Zoo Director
What prompts a young man to want to devote his life to the conservation of animals? In the case of Gary Lunsford, the new director of New Bedford's Buttonwood Park Zoo, blame wild turtles.
"As a kid back in the Oklahoma City area, I was a bit of a turtle nut, and I can't even explain it," he said with a smile. "I think it was the passion of learning more about turtles that led me to 27 years (of) experience in zoos and aquariums."
Lunsford relocated to New Bedford via the Milwaukee County Zoo, and before that, he was in Manitoba.
"When I went to Canada, my zoo career became all about polar bears, and it became an exciting time for me," he said.
The Master Plan that Lunsford looks forward to working on and coming to fruition with the zoo team and executives doesn't make mention of polar bears. He assures they would not make be good fit at the Buttonwood Park Zoo.
Lunsford said he found New Bedford to be a very warm and welcoming community, and a beautiful one.
"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," he said.
Speaking of families that love the zoo, Lunsford credits his dad, a naturalist, for instilling in their family, respect and admiration of nature.
"That connection is compelling," he said. "It's also one of the roles a zoo plays, to cultivate a connection between people and nature, so the people will want to support wildlife conservation with pleasure."