A plan for a new home for Rusti the orangutan hinges on his current owner giving the city $300,000 in cash and materials.

City plan puts Rusti’s
home in zoo’s hands


Saturday, May 14, 2005

» Rusti the orangutan arrived at Honolulu Zoo in 1997. A Thursday story on Page A6 said incorrectly that Rusti arrived in 1987.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.

The City Council approved a plan yesterday that shifts responsibility for building a new home for Rusti the orangutan from the California-based foundation that owns him to the Honolulu Zoo Society.

The plan approved unanimously by the Council hinges on the Orangutan Foundation International giving the city $200,000 cash to help build Rusti's new home, as well as turning over $100,000 worth of construction materials for the project.

Once that transaction is made, the city would pass along the money and materials to the Honolulu Zoo Society, which would supervise building a new, $500,000 home for Rusti and bring him a female companion.

Construction by contractor Reedesign could start by mid-June, said Sidney Quintal, city director of Enterprise Services, which oversees the zoo.

Included in the Council vote was the specification that the city would be responsible for only two outstanding construction-related debts: a bill of $54,660 to Mason Architects Inc. and of $82,477 to A-through-Z, a mainland maker of great-ape cage hardware.

Council members emphasized that OFI must deliver the money for the deal to go ahead.

Gary Slovin, president of the Honolulu Zoo Society, and zoo Director Ken Redman both told the Council yesterday that the move will be good for Rusti and good for the city.

"They haven't shown themselves to be reliable," Slovin said of OFI's management of the construction project, which was supposed to start April 18.

The postponement is the latest in a long string of delays in a new home for Rusti. OFI originally brought Rusti, a Bornean-Sumatran hybrid, to the Honolulu Zoo "temporarily" in 1987 after rescuing him from a New Jersey roadside zoo. Its plan to put Rusti in a Big Island refuge for large apes failed, and in 2003 there was talk of shipping Rusti to a mainland facility. Last year, Kualoa Ranch offered to house Rusti, but that plan was scrapped.

In February 2004, then-Mayor Jeremy Harris announced Rusti would stay at the Honolulu Zoo and that his owners, OFI, would pay $200,000 for his new digs.

When the cost of a proper orangutan cage ballooned to $500,000, other donors were sought and found, among them the Chelsey Foundation of the Big Island and the Vincent Trust, which each pledged $100,000. The Honolulu Zoo Society also pledged to help.

Representatives for OFI could not be reached for comment yesterday.

City officials said OFI recently returned $100,000 of Vincent Trust money that the city had forwarded to it for the project.

Honolulu Zoo Society
Orangutan Foundation International

E-mail to City Desk


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