Toys For Elephants – Helping To Further Enrich The Lives Of Elephants At BEES

Toys for Elephants - he Handshouse Studio Team
The Handshouse Studio Team

What an absolutely incredible way to start the New Year, building enrichment toys for elephants at BEES. Keeping in line with our mission to provide the best possible for the elephants in our care, we have been working on ways we could improve their time in their night enclosures after a day out and about just being elephants. We always have a delicious reward waiting for them upon their return and to take some weight off the mahouts shoulders we have our visitors help clean the elephants night areas, collect night feeds and prepare the food rewards so that the elephants return to the enclosure to delicious treats and the mahouts can take a break.

When a mutual friend put us in contact with Handshouse Studio, we all saw a perfect opportunity to try something new and enriching for the elephants.

Toys for Elephants - Its not all hard work
It’s not all hard work, it’s also lot of fun!

A Little About Handshouse Studio:

Handshouse is a non-profit, innovative, educational organization that creates adventurous hands-on projects through community-service, building projects with non-profit partners around the world as a way to explore history, understand science, and perpetuate the arts. Handshouse, co-founded by Rick Brown and Laura Brown in 2002, is located in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Handshouse creates projects outside of the traditional classroom, one of their projects being Toys for Elephants, were they make enrichment tools for Asian Elephants Ruth and Emily at Buttonwood Zoo, in New Bedford. MA. For More information Check out their website:

Handhouse And BEES Working Together:

It started off with many emails back and forth discussing tools and equipment to determine what they would need to bring and what we had available here. The day finally came when we met Laura and Rick, their daughter Marie and a team of energetic, inspired young people ready to give it their all and work with whatever they could get their hands on.

Toys for Elephants - ollecting Tools and Resources

After several stops to warehouses, roadside stalls for machetes and tools, lunch, a quick waterfall visit we finally arrived back at BEES ready for a week of planning and building toys.

The team gathered to discuss ideas and possible designs, they worked together and split into small groups and began making their ideas reality.  They took into account the elephants ‘personalities’, age and histories. They always kept in mind the risks of possible injury to the elephant and made sure to eliminate those risks by cutting down bolts, smoothing off edges and did their best to ensure safety and durability. They used fire hose, car and motorbike tyres, truck strapping, ropes, bamboo and nuts and bolts to hold things together.

Toys for Elephants - Hatching the plans
Brainstorming and Planning
Toys for Elephants - Hard at Work
And the hard work begins

After a week of hard work, toys and enrichment items were taken for a test run. We know Mae Kam LOVES a tyre to kick around, but weren’t sure how she would react to these specially made toys. Mae Kam showed a lot of interest and enjoyed kicking her giant tyre ball and flicking the multiple tyres attached to one. Thong Dee surprised us, she never really liked to play with car tyres we placed in the enclosure with food, she would just slowly pick the food out, but never kicked it around. It took Thong Dee sometime to figure out that she had to find her treats in these new items and work to get them out, but once she realized she got right in and showed us that even if you’re an old girl you can still have fun and figure out the best way to reach your treats!

Both Teams Learnt A Lot
Learning lots!

Both the Handshouse Team and BEES have learnt so much in this process. It has been a great privilege to work with such dedicated team of people who are sharing their incredible skills and helping improving lives of elephants in captivity.

Watching Mae Kam interact with her enrichment toys
Watching Mae Kam interact with her enrichment toys

Visitors to the program can also help prepare these enrichment toys for the elephants for when they return from the forest and watch how they interact with them. It gives the elephants a good reason to return from the forest, they get a delicious reward and stimulation whilst in their night enclosure and it’s fun to watch them work out how to get their treats!

Thank you Handshouse your all amazing kind, caring people and you have shown us lots of cool skills to implement in the future.

And the end results
The teams achieved great results

Working together to provide the very best possible for elephants ♥️