The effort to save the nearly-extinct elephant population of Vietnam has been given a big boost from the SouthCoast.

Patrons of the Buttonwood Park Zoo have donated enough money that the zoo was recently able to purchase a digital scale for the Elephant Conservation Center in Dak Lak, Vietnam.

Zoo director Keith Lovett tells WBSM News it’s part of the zoo’s emphasis on caring for animals in the wild as much as the ones in captivity.

“We are always looking to do more than just have animals here on display,” he said. “We always want to be able to basically give back to the animals, to help protect them in the wild, so we’re always looking for projects to help the animals, particularly elephants.”

Lovett said that when patrons of the zoo choose to make a donation, they are given a token that they can place into the bucket of the program of their choosing. He said they rotate the programs regularly, but that the elephant project proved to be very popular with donors.

“So it was actually the guests of the Buttonwood Park Zoo that chose to fund this project in Vietnam,” Lovett said.

The scale will help the ECC weigh elephants such as one-year-old Gold, to make sure he’s getting enough formula to reach the proper weight. It’s very important that every elephant in Vietnam be given the best care possible, because they are teetering on extinction.

“They have only 50 elephants documented left in their entire country,” Lovett said. “At least in Vietnam, Asian elephants are going to become extinct.”

The donor program has raised more than $20,000 to help animals since May of 2015.

Courtesy of Buttonwood Park Zoo