FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle Fujii held her nephew Dylan Beppu yesterday as they watched the koi in the koi tank from the observation opening in the center of the tank at the Honolulu Zoo's new Keiki Zoo. The opening is accessed through a tunnel under the tank.
New Keiki Zoo gives curious kids a sensational experience
ABOUT 40 kindergartners from Jefferson Elementary School took a short trip to a different world, grinning big as they petted goats and llamas at the new Keiki Zoo.
"They can see what it's like to be at a farm," said Principal Vivian Hee, who noted that most of the children live in apartments in the Waikiki area.
KEIKI ZOO HOURS
The Keiki Zoo at the Honolulu Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
» Officials plan to extend the hours for the Keiki Zoo once staffing is established.
» The Honolulu Zoo is closed on Christmas.
The former Children's Zoo has reopened as a bigger Keiki Zoo at the Honolulu Zoo.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann spoke at the dedication ceremony yesterday: "I'm a big kid at heart. No matter how old I get, I still love the zoo."
Hannemann thanked the Honolulu Zoological Society for contributing more than $1 million to the $5.1 million project. The largest private donor to the zoological society for the project was the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, which gave $1 million.
Kahu Kordell Kekoa blessed the zoo yesterday before the doors opened to the public.
The Keiki Zoo is 1.6 acres, four times bigger than the Children's Zoo. It is designed to educate visitors of all ages and allow them to interact with the animals.
"We give the animals the option to come up and be touched rather than forcing them," said Honolulu Zoo Assistant Director Tommy Higashino.
There is a section where animals can be brought out by staff members under special circumstances to allow children to pet the animals, Higashino said.
Work to renovate and expand the complex started in February 2005. The project, done by contractor Ralph S. Inouye Co., was completed this month.
Some of the major features at the zoo include a large, circular fish tank with a tunnel children can crawl through to view vibrant orange, white and black koi from inside the tank.
Another feature is a duck and goose pond with a water wheel visitors can activate by spinning horizontal barrels attached to the device.
Other features include a guinea pig exhibit with a tunnel children can crawl through and other animals such as lambs, cows, a llama, a miniature horse and goats.
Higashino said they plan to add classrooms to the complex to educate children about the animals. Zoo officials also have a conceptual plan to place a reptile exhibit in the newly painted red barn where visitors can view the exhibit through a large glass panel window.
Another plan is to place an incubator at the chicken exhibit where visitors can watch chicks hatching from eggs, Higashino said.
"This is exciting for the staff," he added noting that they had provided input in the design of the zoo.
Nuuanu resident Dave Saltzman walked in a pen holding the hand of his 19-month-old daughter, Eve, as he petted one of the goats on its head. "We've been waiting for this to open," Saltzman said. "She loves animals."
Near the entrance of the Keiki Zoo, Manoa resident Nicole Kobayashi stretched out her arm and petted Fernando's long neck as the llama stood near the wooden railing of his pen.
"It's more interactive," Kobayashi said.
"It's amazing. ... It's bigger and more spacious," she said, visiting the zoo with her daughter, Lucia, who turns 2 tomorrow, son, Bert, 4, and mother-in-law, Susan Kobayashi.