Tuesday, March 30, 1999

By Malia Boteilho, Special to the Star-Bulletin
Keoana Pescaia of Molokai enjoys a day with Momi
and Maikai, two giraffes that are heading
from Kahului to Kula.

Higher-ups headed
for Maui zoo

By Gary T. Kubota
Maui Correspondent


WAILUKU -- A children's zoo on Maui is taking two tall orders with long, slow strides.

With a sign expected to read something like "Caution: Tall Load," a truck will be carrying two female giraffes next month from Kahului Harbor to the zoo in Kula at the 3,900-foot level.

Those driving up Haleakala Crater to have brunch may get there closer to lunch, if they're behind two long-necked heads bobbing in the wind. Motorists are advised to take alternate routes.

"We apologize for any inconvenience we may cause, due to slow-moving vehicles," said Wanda Riggs, executive director of Keiki Zoo Maui.

The trip is expected to begin between 6 and 7 a.m. April 12 at the harbor, with an entourage of police escorts, zoo officials, a veterinarian, and yes, children, known as the Junior Zoo Crew for their volunteer work.

The caravan will travel from Wharf Street onto Kaahumanu Avenue, then to Hana Highway, up Haleakala Highway onto Kula Highway, to the GTE telephone exchange at Kekaulike Highway to the zoo.

The giraffes, Momi and Maikai, were donated by Molokai Ranch, which is closing its safari park.

They're hybrid giraffes born at Honolulu Zoo.

Riggs said she doesn't know how long it will take to get them to the zoo, because it's the first time animals of this kind have been transported up the mountain.

Alan Kaufman, a veterinarian who has taken care of the giraffes on Molokai, said the two will have no problem adjusting to the cool weather in Kula.

"Giraffes are used to temperatures more extreme than where they're going," said Kaufman, who will be helping in the move.

Kaufman said the two are about a half to a third of the way through their life cycle, which can range from 20 to 30 years.

The animals, originally from Africa, are used to eating the leaves of the acacia tree, a close relative of the kiawe tree.

"They do have one of the longest tongues of any land animal," Kaufman said.

At 12 feet tall, a giraffe already defies gravity, requiring a heart that weighs 26 pounds to pump blood to the head, Riggs said.

The giraffes are expected to get top billing at the zoo, bumping Louie D. Llama down a notch.

Riggs said the main purpose of the zoo is to build self-esteem in children through associating with and caring for animals.

The zoo, in operation since 1992, offers public tours and a learning program for children in the schools.

The Junior Zoo Crew is a program for children who want experience caring for some 150 animals.

"They're really wonderful kids," Riggs said. "Without them, we really couldn't do the work."

Riggs said like art and music, animal care provides a learning vehicle for some children.

She said children, especially those whose parents rent and are unable to have pets, learn about life cycles through the program.

"It's just another way," she said.

Riggs said the giraffe project, including the fencing of a 2-acre area, will cost about $30,000.

The Maui Zoological Society, the nonprofit firm operating the zoo, has been accepting contributions, including services, from groups and individuals.

Contributions may be sent to Maui Zoological Society, 370 Kekaulike Ave., Kula, HI 96790.

E-mail to City Desk

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