By Tony Bartlett
Reed Travel Features
HONOLULU -- Honolulu Zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary in
August. The facility, on 43 acres tucked into one corner of
Waikiki's Kapiolani Park, dates to 1914. However, according to zoo
director Ken Redman, until 1947 it was really a bird park with an
elephant. That year, the City and County of Honolulu gave the
facility the official designation of zoo. The first full-time
director came aboard, and the facility embarked on expansion.
Those who have not visited in a year or two will see changes,
most noticeably in landscaping. New plantings have sprouted along
walkways and in former scrub or lawn areas. "We're trying to
integrate animals, birds, plants and culture to show they're
interconnected," said Redman. Moving in this direction, the zoo
hired a horticulturist last year. Its weekly schedule of free
events now includes botanical tours, native bird lectures and such
Hawaiian activities as games and lei making.
An area of exclusively endemic Hawaiian plants was created and
adjoins the fenced-in flock of nenes, the endemic Hawaiian goose
and state bird. A lone loulu palm (Hawaii's only native palm -- the
Polynesian voyagers brought the coconuts) has been joined by young
loulu and other flora found only in Hawaii, mostly ground cover,
shrubs, and ferns. New signage is everywhere. "What's Happening
Here?" is printed on one sign by a new garden, explaining that it
"will help supplement the diet of our reptiles" and noting that it
is pesticide-free and has zoo-created compost.
Another project is a new Asian rain forest exhibit, about to
open. A row of separate aviary cages, built in 1938 and previously
housing birds, is being restored and modified into one long
facility housing Asian rain forest birds and reptiles. Previous
nonappropriate occupants, such as penguins, will live
The zoo has been making these improvements out of its operating
budget. Redman praised the Outrigger and Aston hotel chains for
their support. Outrigger underwrote the cost of 300 signs, and
Aston financied expanded summer activities program. Both had summer
programs providing Waikiki guests with free zoo admission.
The zoo's last major capital improvement project was completed
three years ago -- the African Savanna, created over several years
at a cost of $17 million. The 12-acre exhibit is designed to
resemble the grasslands of Africa. It brought Honolulu Zoo into the
mainstream, the worldwide trend of displaying animals in their
natural habitat. Notable is a walk-in African aviary featuring 25
bird species and a chimp enclosure covering two-thirds of an acre.
Visitors wander through pathways with man-made rock formations,
peer through glass at lions and crocodiles and view open spaces of
giraffe and zebra.
The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, with admittance until
4:30 a.m. For further information, call the zoo at (808)