Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Leadership for the Honolulu Zoo!

I turned on Hawaii News Now tonight and was enthralled to see Carlisle's appointment of a new director for the Honolulu Zoo. Under the leadership of Redman, to Quintal, then to his assistant Higashino, recent improvement of the Honolulu Zoo has been marginal at best for the past half decade or so.  Manuel Mollinedo, from the San Francisco Zoo has just taken charge of the post. Despite a single unfortunate event, Mollinedo has a track record of success in attracting visitors and improving revenue. Finally; what a great surprise! I'll tell you why I say finally:

Video of elephant stress-exhibiting behavior at Honolulu Zoo. Last year, this exhibit ranked among the world's 10 worst for elephants. A new exhibit is in the works with 27,000 square feet of room to run around in as well as have pools big enough for swimming.

Last week, my girlfriend and I took a spontaneous weekend visit to the zoo after surfing and was taken back--actually, she was appalled--by the condition of the zoo facilities and the apparent health of the animals. We witnessed hundreds of exhausted, almost sick-looking, lethargic, mammals and reptiles alike in the worst condition that I have seen them since I first visited the zoo over a decade ago.

A poor orangutan, for examples, had her face stamped flat against the viewing glass and wept silently while trying to tend to a 4 inch long, 3 inch thick, major, salmon-meat-looking laceration on her left shoulder. Her friend looked like he was starving and was keeping busy by eating a large piece of thick, plastic wrapping!

We were a little stunned so I gave the zoo-keeper a call from the number listed on a nearby sign. On the other end was an aide who told me that the plastic was left in there on purpose because the apes apparently like to hide under the plastic for fun. I told her it didn't look like that's what they are using it for and I am sure that they are eating it. She said she would send the zoo keeper notice to check-in but didn't seemed more annoyed than alarmed. Hey, but what do I know: maybe plastic helps regulate the digestion of the orangutan's high-potassium diet?

The "watering hole" where the Savannah animals gather and the lake display near the entry were disgustingly overrun by algae and molds. Flamingos were being overcrowded by mynas and Honolulu flying rats--a.k.a. rock doves or pigeons. Displays with grass were usually under-watered while displays with water (i.e. hippos and alligators)typically had glass displays blurred by algae and debris.

The gibbons, however, were as active as ever. You got to love those guys!

And one last thing: believe it or not, we witnessed a peacock stalk a family getting burgers and fries from the food bar, sneaked up to the table, JUMPED ON, and started pecking away swallowing a fry at a time. It was the table right next to us, I got up and tried to shoo it away but it wouldn't budge even when I gave it a little nudge. The elderly woman and her grandchildren had to move their food!

I love the zoo. It is a wonderful attraction for the City and I believe it could also be revamped to being quite economical. But every year it was seeming to get worse. This visit pushed me over the edge. My girlfriend and I left disconcerted, and wanting to take action. Upon leaving we actually vowed to take a stand.  First, we planned to look into the zoo's success and animal standards to be sure we weren't overreacting or wasting our time, then if our hunches had any truth, start a campaign to get the community involved and help save the animals and the attraction as a whole. After Carlisle's announcement, all I have to say is "Phew...!"

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