Did you know that The Honolulu Zoo is the only zoo in the United States that originated in a King’s grant of royal lands to the people?
The area that we now as Kapiʻolani Park, was once a 300 acre parcel of land made up of old fish ponds, lagoons, and marshes. In 1876, King David Kalākaua declared the land to be available “to the people of Hawaiʻi”. The land was cleared out and in 1877 officially opened as Queen Kapiʻolani Park to honor Julia Kapiolani, Queen consort of David Kalākaua.
It was then used as a housing area for the King and Queen’s private bird collection and it wasn’t until 1914 that the City of Honolulu assumed responsibility for the park and began collecting animals from around the world.
The first park director, Ben Hollinger, began with a bear, a monkey, and an African elephant “for the children of Hawaiʻi” to view and enjoy. However, it wasn’t until 1947 under the direction of Paul Bresse that 42.5 acres of the park was designated as The Honolulu Zoo.
Nowadays, the mission of The Honolulu Zoo is to “inspire stewardship of our living world by providing meaningful experiences to our guests” and to remain a place of natural beauty and ornamental landscape for the benefit of Hawaiʻi.
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Just like Hawaii itself, there is something very special about the last prince of Hawaii, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole. The irresistible charm of his as a person is seen in every picture of him and felt in the hearts of many through the written records as if he is actually talking to you. It was his signature smile which gave him his famous nickname “Prince Cupid” throughout his entire life. Combined with his impeccable academic and athletic prowess as well as his charismatic presence and influence of being the only royalty and first native Hawaiian in the U.S. congress, he left a stellar impression everywhere he went. What he is remembered for most is his unparalleled compassion and support throughout his life for his people to regain their pride and strength as Hawaiian. People called the Prince as “Ke Ali`i Maka`ainana” (the Prince of the People). He didn’t become a king after all, but he was the true Ali‘i (chief) who never stopped fighting the battles for the rights of the Hawaiian people.
On the Sunday morning of March 18th, 1866, a powerful fast steamer, the Ajax docked into Honolulu Harbor safely after a 10-day sea voyage from San Francisco. Receiving a cheerful welcome of gliding albatross from up above and a crowd of flying-fish in front of their decks, passengers watched the green valleys and swaying palm trees gradually coming into their views. Church bells tolled in the distance.
Every year, on the first Saturday of January, February and March, those who are allured by the giant humpback whales, gather together on their outposts throughout the islands. Their serious gazes are glued on the glaring sea spanning out its full panoramic view in front of them. Their binoculars move slowly and quietly like an experienced hunter who would never disturb the animal until “the moment” comes. When the moment arrives, a white whiff arises miles away; a pack of humpbacks are here, breaching. Instead of mustering its crews with ropes and tools for attack, they muster their notebooks and pens. They are ‘hunting’ for whales with their eyes only, just counting.