Private funds will pay for a new $500,000 cage for Rusti the orangutan, and the mayor is looking at more public-private participation to help the Honolulu Zoo's future operations.

Work on new
home for Rusti
set to start

Construction starts Monday on Rusti the orangutan's $500,000 new home at the Honolulu Zoo, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.

Now that the much-delayed project to give the zoo's favorite animal a new home is under way, attention can turn to choosing a female companion for Rusti, said zoo Director Ken Redman.

Rusti's new roommate will be about his age, 25, or a little younger and would also be a hybrid -- half Sumatran, half Bornean.

"We don't have the female picked out," Redman said. A female at the San Diego Zoo is a possible match, but there are other candidates.

Rusti's companion will be female, because males don't get along with each other. But they won't reproduce because zoos no longer allow breeding among hybrid orangutans. Rusti has had a vasectomy.

The female might actually get to move in before Rusti, Redman said.

Reedesign Builders is the contractor for the cage, which will be 7,500 square feet, encompassing a banyan tree, two sleeping rooms and a day room for a total of 8,168 square feet.

Construction will take about four months, Redman said.

The upgrade will be more than 20 times larger than the old-style cage that Rusti has lived in since "temporarily" coming to the zoo in 1997.

In addition to $200,000 from Rusti's owner, the Orangutan Foundation International, other donors of $100,000 each for his new home are Erin Keck of the Chelsey Foundation; the Rose Vincent Trust; and the Honolulu Zoo Society.

"With this kind of cooperation from private entities, we can build Rusti the exhibit and quarters he needs and make this attraction one of which we can all be proud," Hannemann said yesterday at the zoo.

Honolulu Zoo
City & County of Honolulu

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