Honolulu Zoo is an island attraction that is sure to inspire and educate visitors of all ages. Spanning 300 acres of land, exhibits here teach visitors about the animals and the environment of the Pacific tropical ecosystem. The zoo aims to promote traditional Hawaiian values of hospitality and caring. This important institution plays a key role in conservation and repopulation efforts for endangered species. Due to their efforts in this regard, visitors are given a rare and unique opportunity to observe many mammalian, avian, and reptilian species that are on the brink of extinction. Further, guest can get an inside look at the distinct ecological landscape of the Hawaiian islands through the native species on display.
Back in 1877, when Hawaii was still a monarchy, King David Kalakaua created the Kapiolani Regional Park, which was the precursor to the Honolulu Zoo. Originally, it only displayed the king’s private collection of birds and a horse racing track. Later in 1914, and under the direction of the first park director, Ben Hollinger, the institution started to collect other animals to display to the people of Hawaii. Though Hollinger managed to acquire a monkey, a bear, and an African elephant, the institution was mainly known for its birds-of-paradise collection. The modern version of Honolulu Zoo as visitors see it today didn’t emerge until 1984, when the zoo grounds were organized according to ecological zones rather than taxonomic groupings of animals. Currently, the zoo displays animals from three ecological zones: Pacific islands, African savannah, and Asian and American tropical forests.
Perhaps no other animal is as emblematic of the continent of Africa as the zebra. These social animals are well known for their herd mentality. To keep an eye out for predators, zebras take turns sleeping, signaling safety with a neighing vocalization. The zebra’s ears are a good indication of its mood. Calm moods are indicated with erect ears, while anger is shown with pulled back ears, and forward facing ears indicate fear.
Arriving at Honolulu Zoo by way of a gift exchange with Asa Zoo in Hiroshima, Honolulu’s sister city, the three giant young salamanders in residence attract much attention from visitors. Maru, Panda, and Peace are all known to have distinct personalities. This is especially astonishing given that these creatures have poor vision and are nocturnal by nature. Despite this, their singular behavior continues to draw crowds.
Those interested in record-breaking predators that are indisputably at the top of the food chain will be interested in visiting the Komodo dragon. Ranging in size from 8 to 10 feet, these mighty beasts are known as the heaviest living lizards in the world. The Komodo dragon has many adaptations that allow it to find prey, sometimes from up to 5 miles away. Similar to the jaws of sharks, the Komodo dragon’s mouth has 60 teeth with serrated edges as well as bacteria that are known to infect and kill any prey fortunate enough to escape its mighty jaws. Added to that, the Komodo dragon also holds a venom gland that allows it to disable their prey while taking out large chunks of the flesh.
By far some of the most photogenic residents of the Honolulu Zoo are its birds-of-paradise. Known for their gorgeous plumage and intricate mating rituals, these winged wonders actually share a lot of common characteristics with the common crow. Birds-of-paradise typically prefer to lead a solitary tree-bound existence, which means that visitors are likely to hear their characteristic vocalizations before spotting them. Honolulu Zoo is home to three species of birds-of-paradise: the Raggiana bird-of-paradise, the magnificent bird-of-paradise, and the superb bird-of-paradise. Just as their names suggest, these beautiful creatures are bound to delight all those who behold them.
Native Hawaiian Species
No visit is complete without a picture of the nene, the state bird of Hawaii. This well-known species of goose is the only such bird endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago. Sadly, it is currently considered endangered by the state and federal governments. It is a non-migratory, semi-terrestrial bird. Originally subsisting on dry shrubbery growing near Hawaii’s lava fields, the nene population has dwindled due to a loss of its natural habitat, which happened in part due to the development of the land for human use as well the introduction of non-native species.
151 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815, Phone: 808-971-7171