Honolulu Zoo


Honolulu Zoo

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Established 1877
The Honolulu Zoo is the only zoo within a radius of 2,392 miles. It is also the only zoo in the United States that originated in a King’s grant of royal lands to the people. In 1876, King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawai‘i, made lands of the Leahi Crown Holdings available, “to the people of Hawai‘i.”
The 300 acre parcel was primarily a marshland of old fish ponds, lagoons and islands. In 1877 King Kalakaua dedicated Kapiolani Regional Park named for his consort Queen Kapiolani. Appointed Park Association members developed the unpromising land with the help of royal subsidies to display the King’s private bird collection and to feature a horseracing track.

Honolulu Zoo

Child riding elephant Daisy, 1900.

In 1914, the City of Honolulu assumed responsibility for the park and the first Park Director, Ben Hollinger, began collecting animals. He began with a monkey, bear and an African elephant “for the children of Hawai‘i.” With a world-wide reputation for its Bird-of-paradise collection, in 1938 “Kapiolani Bird Park” grew to include three large aviary complexes. E.H. Lewis, noted ornithologist and superintendent of the bird park on Santa Catalina Island, CA. was brought in to supervise the establishment of “modern” techniques for breeding and bird care.
In 1947, 42.5 acres within Kapiolani Regional Park, was designated as the Honolulu Zoo. Paul Breese was hired as the first Zoo Director and worked to developed its first Master Plan In 1952, the zoo was converted to a “popular” layout showing animals in taxonomic groupings of bird, reptile and mammal exhibits. The first director was succeeded by Jack Throp, and the staff increased to twenty-eight. Jerome S. Marr became the third director in 1979.


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