Zoo building new elephant exhibit, critics still not happy

Sidney Quintal
Sidney Quintal

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City and County of Honolulu broke ground Friday on a new home for the two Indian elephants at the Honolulu Zoo.

While the city said the new enclosure will be "wonderful," an animal rights group tells Hawaii News Now the new facility is still not big enough.

The current elephant exhibit at the zoo is 6,000 square feet. The new exhibit will give the elephants 37,000 square feet and two 55,000 gallon pools.

"If we want to educate people about what elephants are, the challenges that they face in the wild, we kind of have to put our money where our mouth is. And we've done that today. We've spent a large sum of money and we're very happy to have it and I think the elephants are going to appreciate it," said Sidney Quintal, city director of the Department of Enterprise Services while attending Friday's groundbreaking ceremony.

In January a group called In Defense of Animals (IDA) put the Honolulu Zoo on its list of the ten worst zoos in North America for elephants.

That group contends the soon to be built 37,000 square foot elephant enclosure is still too small.

"They will be living still in a sub-standard environment. In fact it's just irresponsible to build an elephant exhibit that's less than one acre," said Catherine Doyle, IDA Elephant Campaign Director. "In fact the two elephants now at the zoo should be sent to an elephant sanctuary which would provide a vast space and the companionship of other elephants in a far more natural environment," Doyle added.

A trip to a sanctuary will not be happening. Instead, the city will begin construction of the new facility next month, and the elephants' new home should be finished in September of 2011.

The new elephant facility is costing the city $6.35 million.

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