The City has updated the master plan for the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford.

The fifteen year, $22 million plan calls for a host of changes, including more exhibits featuring endangered and exotic species such as tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, and much more.

Zoo Director Keith Lovett says under the plan, the zoo is transforming itself from a display-oriented attraction to one the looks to raise interest and awareness. "We want people to come to the zoo and not only have a great week and day at the zoo, but to learn about their environment and learn about how they can be a better environmental steward, and even in a small way help to protect the planet," said Lovett.

Also under the new master plan, once beloved elephants Emily and Ruth pass away, the zoo wants to introduce endangered Asian rhinos to the seven-acre property.

Mayor Jon Mitchell says under the new master plan, the zoo will go from good to great, and raise the expectations of all who visit the city. "We want our residents and for visitors to New Bedford to say 'Yeah, of course. That's the way it is in New Bedford. That's the New Bedford way.' New Bedford strives for excellence and achieves excellence because that's the kind of community it is. And this is the kind of project that will lead the way," said Mitchell.

The zoo will also boast an aquatic complex, with it's already existing seal and otter exhibits, and new attractions, as well.

The master pan will be completed in three five-year phases with public and private funds. Lovett says the zoo will still feature many native New England species, even more than it currently hosts.

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