Audit raises concerns about donation record-keeping, outdated facilities at zoo

Mayor defends Honolulu Zoo after scathing audit finds various problem

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A blistering audit of the troubled Honolulu Zoo is drawing mixed reactions from elected officials.

The zoo lost its accreditation in 2016 and since then it has been an uphill battle to get it back.

But Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the audit is simply dated.

“The audit was basically a snapshot of two years. Two years ago, the zoo was in a much different place than it is today,” he said.

The city manages the zoo, which relies on income from admissions, taxpayers and the non-profit Honolulu Zoo Society.

The recent audit found that from 2015 to 2017, more than $650,000 in donations from the Honolulu Zoo Society were not accounted for in the zoo’s books.

It also raises concerns about the instability of leadership, understaffing and inadequate maintenance as major problems.

Caldwell said a lot of effort has been put into the zoo since 2017. He said they have filled positions and added exhibits.

“The new ectotherm exhibit. Brand new. That’s something that people are coming to. The salamanders that laid eggs for the first time,” Caldwell said.

Honolulu City Council Budget Chairman Joey Manahan said snapshot or not, the audit is concerning.

Manahan said the zoo not only failed to keep track of incoming donations, but the department in charge could not find documentation of where the money went.

“The lack of control, the lack of monitoring, the lack of the ability to monitor that process is a little bit alarming with regards to the Department of Enterprise Services,” Manahan said.

He added he would like to see a non-profit expert group step in and take over.

Caldwell disagrees and said the zoo is in the process of getting re-accredited. He said zoo officials submitted the application and the inspection team is coming out next month.

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