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Sun Bear, White Rino, Meerkats Photos: Bryan Thompson

Conservation & Research

Conservation Education

The zoo’s logo was updated in 2007 to reflect a relationship between animals ("zoo"), habitat (native koa leaf pattern) and culture (Hawaiian kappa print). The intended message is that all are inextricably linked.

The primary educational objective of the Honolulu Zoo is to create a global and Hawai’i-based environmental awareness which leads residents and vacationers to feel responsible for the well-being of this very special place that is the Hawaiian Islands. The theme we are working to employ zoo-wide is "We are all Islanders." Islands are about limits and we strive to enhance the public’s understanding of conservation issues through the lens of life on islands. We seek to empower our visitors to participate in solutions to environmental problems both locally and globally, through individual actions, sustainable lifestyles and political awareness/activism. We express our conservation messages through all educational venues.

Island
                Invaders

Malama I Ka ‘Aina

Hawaiian for "respect the land," malama i ka ‘aina is the underlying principle of all the "Zoo To You" Outreach programs. One program is offered free of charge as a public service to the children of Hawaii – Island Invaders. It directly addresses ‘malama i ka ‘aina’ by providing helpful information and practical solutions to the problem of invasive species. The program focuses on seven of the most dangerous invasive species; miconia, fountain grass, gorilla ogo, coqui frogs, fire ants, mongoose, and the brown tree snake. Easy and positive solutions are generated to empower the participant to take action in their daily lives. We discuss how the species are spread, how to prevent that spread, who to call to report invasive species, and the importance of a united and conscious effort to give your time to the land and sea that supports our beautiful island home. To schedule an Outreach for your school, community group, or event please contact our outreach coordinator at outreach@honzoosoc.org.

Hawaiian Native Plant and Water Conservation

The Honolulu Zoo is encouraging public participation in a statewide effort to preserve our native flora while conserving our precious water resources. Native Hawaiian flora includes a host of water thrifty species suitable for inclusion in Hawaiian xeric (water-conserving) gardens. Before human settlement, native lowland environments supported a vast array of xeric species assembled in unique communities of compatible species. The Zoo’s horticulturist has assembled numerous Hawaiian native plant gardens that demonstrate how selecting plants that occur together in natural communities or habitats with similar soils and rainfall amounts will create a more conservation-conscious garden.

The Zoo partners with like-minded agencies such as the City’s Department of Urban Forestry and Honolulu Botanic Gardens, Lyon Arboretum, the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, and Leeward Community College to disseminate information and plant material to promote the cultivation of native plants in public and residential landscapes. Thanks to these partnerships, many endangered native species are now in cultivation in landscapes easily accessible to the public. In addition to raising public awareness and knowledge of these plants, the dispersal of rare specimens improves their chances of survival for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations.

 

Conserving Hawaiian and Pacific Biotas

Through the Honolulu Zoo Conservation Fund, we support a number of in situ projects focused on Pacific island flora and fauna.

Clermontia

Manoa Cliff Trail Restoration

The Zoo’s Conservation Committee supports the restoration of a 6-acre forest along the Manoa Cliff Trail in Honolulu, O’ahu. The trail is an easily accessible hike above the city that is still great for observing native plants. We provide funds to to propagate native lobeliads, known in Hawaiian as ‘haha’ (Clermontia oblongifolia and C. kakeana) which are then out-planted along the trail. These lobeliads evolved along with Hawaiian honeycreepers, as the morphology of their flowers match the decurved bills of birds, such as the I`iwi.

Mariana fruit doves

Mariana Avifauna Conservation (MAC) Project

The MAC project was initiated as a response to the threat of a brown treesnake infestation in the Confederation of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The complete decimation of the forest birds of Guam by the brown treesnake is widely recognized. It became necessary to implement conservation actions to ensure the persistence of CNMI's endemic and rare bird species once the snake became established on Saipan and threatened the islands of Rota and Tinian. The MAC project is a collaboration between the CNMI Division of Forestry and Wildlife and wildlife biologists from the Honolulu Zoo, Memphis Zoo, St. Louis Zoo, Louisville Zoo, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Geological Survey. The zoo biologists hope to create banked populations of native bird species, initially working to establish captive populations of six of Saipan’s 11 species. The species to date are Mariana fruit dove, white-throated ground dove, bridled white-eye, golden white-eye, Tinian monarch and rufous fantail. Five of these species are on exhibit at the Honolulu Zoo.

Saipan

Releasing Saipan bridled white-eyes on Sarigan, CNMI

Another strategy of the Marianas Avian Conservation Project, or MAC, is moving endangered island birds to islands they never inhabited to help save them from environmental threats on their home island. The diminutive nosa, or Saipan bridled white-eye, is an insectivore endemic to the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Aguijan in the Confederation of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). It was also formerly found on Guam where it sadly was the first avian species to become extinct as a result of the brown treesnake infestation. Each year since 2008, Honolulu Zoo’s bird staff have collaborated with the CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to translocate nosa from Saipan, where their population is stable, to the uninhabited island of Sarigan in hopes of establishing a refuge for endemic Mariana Island birds that is safe from the treesnake. Encouraging news: as of May 2011, unbanded birds have been observed on Sarigan that are undoubtedly the progeny of banded, released birds. If the nosa translocation is indeed successful the door will be open for translocations of other rarer species in the future.

 

Supporting International Conservation Actions

The Kibale Fuel Wood Project

Kibale National Park is one of Uganda’s most gorgeous tropical forests with an immense diversity of plants and animals, including chimpanzees. The Honolulu Zoo supports the community-based efforts of the New Nature Foundation which "uses creative solutions to habitat preservation that promote people living in harmony with nature." Since 2006, the Kibale Fuel Wood Project has been working to protect the Kibale National Park from encroachment by the surrounding villages and improve park-people relationships. Wood and charcoal are the sole sources of energy for more than 98% of the people living around the park. Illegal collection of wood from within its boundaries damages plant and animal populations. The project has a three tiered approach: building fuel efficient "rocket" stoves, planting trees as an alternative fuel source, and outreach education about the importance of the park’s biodiversity. For more information visit www.newnaturefoundation.org.

Orangutan Outreach

Orangutan Outreach

The mission of Orangutan Outreach is to promote public awareness and participation in conservation strategies for orangutans through grassroots campaigns, community involvement and global communication. They also collaborate with Indonesian conservationists to run orangutan rehabilitation centers and fund rescue efforts of orangutans confiscated on palm oil plantations. Contributions from the Honolulu Zoo Conservation Fund have gone to support operations in Sintang, West Kalimantan, where a new Orangutan rescue center has been established. One of the projects will be to develop a new 20,000 acre reforestation project in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) called Sintang Lestari. It will support local communities and the orangutans being rehabilitated in the rescue center.

The Honolulu Zoo also holds an awareness event every Mother’s Day, M.O.M.s - Missing Orangutan Mothers, to bring attention to the plight of these beautiful red apes and encourage people to want to help protect them. For more information visit www.redapes.org/mom.

Ground-Hornbill Ground-Hornbill Photo: Bryan Thompson

Mabula Ground-Hornbill Research and Conservation Project

The numbers of Southern Ground Hornbills are declining in Southern Africa, with probably only 1500-2000 birds remaining. The main reason for the decline is loss of over 70% of their natural habitat due to agriculture and cattle, indirect poisoning and snaring, loss of large nesting trees, and electrocution on power transformer boxes. The Mabula Ground Hornbill Research and Conservation Project, with support from Honolulu Zoo, aims to bolster wild hornbill numbers through a variety of means. Hand-reared second chicks and rehabilitated birds have been successfully reintroduced into the wild, and artificial nests are provided for wild groups that lack them. Awareness and school outreach campaigns are conducted to educate the public about the danger this flagship indicator species is in and to stem unintentional deaths and the exotic bird trade.

 

Animal Welfare Research

Elephant

Using Science to Understand Zoo Elephant Welfare

This research project is a collaboration among all AZA-accredited zoos that keep elephants. It is the first comprehensive welfare assessment of elephants in North American zoos. The Honolulu Zoo Society (HZS) is the administrator of this 3-year project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Dr. Kathy Carlstead, HZS Director of Research, is one of the nine principal investigators.

Animal welfare is multifaceted, with links to health, emotions and behavior. Assessment of welfare must consider all of these factors. We can evaluate the impact of management practices on elephant welfare by looking at differences between elephants subjected to different practices among zoos. For example, some of the management factors we will assess are enclosure size, amount of exercise and enrichment provided, use of the ankus, climate, social group size and presence/absence of a bull, and keeper-animal relationships. This is an epidemiological (multi-variate) study of zoo elephants that will determine the social, environmental and management factors (independent or input variables) related to a broad spectrum of animal-based welfare indicators (dependent variables or outcomes). Data will be collected in two phases. Phase 1 includes all 72 zoos housing elephants and will constitute a comprehensive zoo elephant population census. Multiple biological samples (blood, saliva, feces) will be collected twice monthly for 1 year, in addition to information collected from zoo staff by surveys and photos, and from veterinarian exams. Phase 2 includes a subset of approximately 40 AZA zoos were we will collect detailed behavioral data using a combination of video and direct observation, and GPS monitoring of distance walked. This project will provide a model of zoo animal welfare research that can be applied to other species.