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06/06/2012

Educational toys for zoo elephants! Because life in a zoo shouldn’t be a complete nightmare!  »

This is Emily (l) and Ruth, the two Asian elephants living at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Mass. They’re playing with their new toys, specifically designed by students in the Toys for Elephants class at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

The class has existed for two years, and was created in conjunction with Buttonwood Zoo Park’s director, Dr. William Langbauer, videographer Christen Goguen, and Vicki Croke. The history of the class, a video of the elephants, and a slideshow of these lovely ladies and their new toys are all at 90.9 WBUR’s site, and it’s all great!

As always, we don’t care for zoos as “places to display animals outside of their natural habits,” but they’re not as bad as they used to be (right?). Dr. Langbauer says, “One of our challenges is to give elephants the same sort of environment that they have in the wild…. They don’t need thousands of acres, they need enough room to be able to be together when they want to be together, and apart when they want to be apart.” That sounds reasonable.

We do love the idea of an artistic-scientific collaboration to keep Emily and Ruth sharp. Humans in retirement communities have activities for similar reasons! Not that we’re comparing elephants and the elderly, exactly (though Emily is 49 and Ruth is 54). The point is, if you’re a student at MassArt, you could make toys for elephants, and then see the elephants enjoy those toys, and that sounds pretty great. Plus the ellies look so happy! As long as they’re in a zoo, they might as well be happy.

[photo by Susan Hagner for WBUR]

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