Honolulu Zoo gets accreditation renewed

 UPDATED 8:43 AM HST Apr 10, 2012
Peter Carlisle at Honolulu Zoo
HONOLULU -

Even the animals are relieved after the city announced the Honolulu Zoo is no longer in risk of losing its accreditation.

Last year the Association of Zoos and Aquariums found the zoo failed to meet required standards and since then, its credibility has been in limbo.

Under pressure, the zoo's director Manuel Mollinedo addressed the most critical issues first.

"We had some serious issues regarding rust that developed over a number of years," said Mollindo. He added that it created some safety issues for us.  Termites were another major issue.

The biggest overhaul and most pricey improvement is a renovation of the elephant exhibit.

The new living arrangements cost the city $12 million.

The zoo houses roughly 1,000 animals, exotic and native.  Looking forward, the zoo can now apply for world accreditation, which allows for more international guests to move in.

"Japan, China Australia and work with them not only with conservation programs but also on being able to bring many animals from that part of the world into our collection," said Mollinedo.

The zoo also increased its staffing, hiring a second veterinarian and a general curator.

At a press conference Monday, the city said more than 600,000 people visit the zoo every year.

Kaneohe resident Kevin Abe said he noticed the changes as he walked with his daughter through the zoo.

"I think it's great. It keeps it fresh so all the kids can keep coming back and see new things," said Abe.

Mollinedo said the zoo's maps are improved.  He also says a not-so-obvious change but much needed change is the number of exit signs added around the grounds.

He is hopeful the upgrades will make visitors stick around longer.

"The good news is that we were accredited. The bad news is that we have four more years to get ready for the next accreditation inspection," joked Mollindeo.

Mollinedo said he would like to bring in koalas and kangaroos to the Honolulu Zoo.

Within the next fours, Mollinedo said he would also like to open a full-service restaurant on the zoo's grounds.

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