Special to KPUA.net by H.I.E.D.B
Hawaii Island Economic Development Board is a private non-profit organization whose mission is, "To provide and promote private-sector support and expertise for balanced economic growth in Hawaii County, in partnership with federal, state, county and private resources."
Primates Primed for Primadome
In the category of "did you know," did you know that the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo here on Hawaii Island is the only zoo in the United States situated in a tropical rainforest? And did you know, in 2002 our island's Panaewa Rainforest Zoo hosted over 138,000 visitors, averaging nearly 11,000 free visits each month! Under the direction of Dick Mortemore, the zoo has been revitalized and is constantly juggling how to do more with less. Mortemore also includes the racetrack and equestrian center under his large umbrella of responsibilities.
Mortemore credits a core group of volunteers and a great staff for keeping the zoo going strong. Friends of the Zoo (FOZ) keep a donation box at the zoo entrance and they help operate the zoo's gift shop. Donations and proceeds from the shop help offset the $460,000 annual budget that covers salaries for paid staff, animal food and care, landscaping and maintenance costs. Of particular pride to FOZ is the soon-to-be-built "Primadome." A primadome is a unique alternative to traditional cages for housing primates. An ongoing fundraiser for construction of the primadome has resulted in a dream becoming reality for Mortemore and his staff. Construction for the primadome is slated to begin in April at the cost of $90,000.
FOZ also gave $500 scholarship awards to one East Hawaii and one West Hawaii graduating senior this past year. They hope to increase the award to $1000 in 2003. At least fifteen Friends of the Zoo members are on hand each Saturday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. to assist at the Petting Zoo. Children have an opportunity during that time to meet Bobby Brown (a mongoose), Kuhina (a nene), Kapono (a Hawaiian Hawk), Fluffy (a barn owl) as well as a black swan named Jill, a baby goat born December 23rd named Pixie Snowflake and a miniature horse, cow and goat.
Mortemore feels there is vast potential at Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. The zoo's rainforest climate limits what type of animals the zoo is suited for but that doesnšt stop Mortemore from aspiring to create habitats representative of and suitable for animals from South America, Africa, and Asia to go along with the animals from Hawaii. The zoo is already moving in that direction and those involved are confident the habitats will become reality just as the primadome is becoming reality.
"Having taught at UH and with the Department of Education here for 20 years, I know how to get around and do a lot of things with little or no money," Mortemore says half-serious, half jokingly. "We can continue to move ahead with the budget we have and do great things at this zoo."
Great things are already happening. Any given weekend, as many as 1000 people can be found at the zoo. It is a fun, clean, safe place for families to come at no cost. There are often birthday parties in the pavilion. Many animal enclosures are being re-done and updated. A pair of anteaters is making their way to the zoo very soon. The Palm Society, Orchid Society, Bamboo Society and Rhododendron Society all volunteer at the zoo. They plant numerous specimens of society namesake foliage adding to the lush tropical landscaping that the zoo is becoming known for. The Water Garden showcases five different species of water lilies. The Rhododendron Society recently announced that a new species of white rhododendron is being named "Namaste" after the zoošs most famous resident, the white tiger.
The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo is open every day at no charge from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The tiger feeding is daily at 3:30 p.m. For more information on the zoo or how to become a volunteer with Friends of the Zoo, visit the zoo's web site at www.hilozoo.com.