The 23-foot Primadome, which houses four spider monkeys at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in Hilo, was dedicated yesterday.

Hilo monkeys
feeling at home

Volunteer labor and donations
help build a new primate habitat

HILO >> Babs, Bugaboo, Katie and Kiley are happy monkeys, if swinging from 20-foot lengths of old fire hose shows monkey happiness.

Despite the fact that black-handed spider monkeys from South America prefer to live high in trees, these four lived in a cage at ground level at Hilo's Panaewa Rainforest Zoo until last year.

On Oct. 23, a door opened and the four entered the zoo's new 23-foot-high, 34-foot-wide Primadome.

Yesterday, after months of acclimating the Primadome residents, the zoo held a dedication ceremony for the dome.

Despite the zoo being a county facility, the $90,000 project was carried out entirely with volunteer labor and donations led by the private Friends of the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, said member Jean Curtis.

One important contribution from the county was those old fire hoses from the Fire Department, said zoo director Dick Mortemore.

The project was almost three years in the making. After initial research by former zoo friend Zona Gabbard, she proposed the galvanized steel, geodesic dome to the Friends in 2002.

It was designed by a primate researcher in Texas, strong enough to hold a great ape, and tough enough to stand up to hurricane winds.

Dome construction was completed in 2003, but more time was needed to construct a walk-in "chute" that leads from the dome to the monkeys' old cage, now used as a nighttime sleeping house.

Panaewa Rainforest Zoo

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