RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Violet, who just arrived from the San Diego Zoo to be Rusti's new companion, frolicked yesterday in the new area for the two at the Honolulu Zoo.
It's a jungle out there
But for Rusti the orangutan, Violet might end his dating woes
VIOLET the orangutan grabbed onto a chain-link fence with her large fingers and toes, slowly climbed down from her hammock and stuck her large lips out to get peanut butter treats and slurps of orange-flavored Gatorade.
Known to many as Rusti's new gal pal, the 139-pound orangutan is already making herself at home at the Honolulu Zoo -- Rusti or no Rusti in sight.
Violet -- a half-Sumatran, half-Bornean hybrid -- arrived from San Diego on Tuesday, brought here for the purpose of keeping Rusti company.
Yesterday, zoo keeper Laura Debnar fed her a thick peanut butter sandwich from behind the fence of the new orangutan exhibit.
Debnar is one of two zoo keepers from the San Diego Zoo who traveled with Violet to ensure a smooth transition.
Violet will be in quarantine until Jan. 7, when Rusti moves to the new $675,000 exhibit.
And it's going to be a large house for the two of them, 20 times larger than Rusti's current enclosure.
STAR-BULLETIN / SEPTEMBER 2004
Rusti will move in with Violet on Jan. 7, when her quarantine ends.
The exhibit comes with two bedrooms, a day room and a spacious open-air cage -- and two large public windows for curious humans. So far, Violet seems to be slowly getting used to her new digs, Debnar said.
Violet was a little nervous when she arrived because work was still being done on the orangutan exhibit. But jitters were not enough to kill her appetite. Debnar said Violet likes eating apples, oranges, bananas and strawberries.
And judging by her first attempt to come to Hawaii last week, Violet is no pushover. When she got to the Los Angeles airport, zoo officials discovered that Violet had ripped off a third of the crate's interior metal roof.
"They're very strong," Debnar said of orangutans.
So she was taken back to San Diego so workers could modify her cage with stronger plexi/plastic material. And before her flight to Honolulu, Violet was given a sedative.
One of Violet's zoo keepers returned to California on Wednesday.
Debnar, who travels back to the mainland Saturday, said she got to meet Rusti. "He's a handsome fellow. She should like him a lot," she said.
Violet had lived with seven other orangutans and four siamangs (largest of the Gibbon species) at her previous exhibit in San Diego.
"She seems happiest when she lives with one male. She does better in smaller social settings," Debnar said. The size of the Honolulu Zoo's orangutan exhibit is similar to the size of her exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.
"It's the best attraction at the zoo," Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday. The 8,168-square-foot exhibit is a step toward creating a world-class zoo in Honolulu, he said.
But animal lovers shouldn't expect a Rusti Jr. running around any time soon. The two orangutans will not reproduce because they are both hybrids.