Honolulu Zoo breaks ground on elephant pavilion

Construction should be completed by mid-September

 UPDATED 7:55 PM HST Jun 07, 2013

Watching elephants Mari and Vaigai munch on some lunch is enough to excite zoo visitors and have most kids jumping up and down.

A groundbreaking on Friday marked the start of a new project which could give elephant lovers a more awesome view of one of the zoo's largest creatures.

"We're going to be building a new pavilion here so residents and visitors here can stand out of the elements, out of the sun and rain and watch our elephants," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

In a public-private partnership, Sheila Watumull will front $600,000 to build the new pavilion in honor of her late husband, David, who shares her love for elephants.

"I'm a consulate general for India; David was the consulate general for India; and his father was a freedom fighter," said Watumull.  "We go way back and elephants are our things.  It's part of our family.  Everything is keeping with the elephants."

The pavilion will be constructed and designed locally.  A Big Island artist will design the floor mural.

Six local schools will decorate the six columns holding up the roof.  The new addition will complement the recent 1.5 acre expansion to the elephant exhibit.

"The pavilion is really going to help out giving the visitors a place where they can go sit down and relax with their families and really enjoy the animals," said acting Honolulu Zoo Director Dr. Baird Fleming.  "The pavilion will be elevated so people will get a better visual on them."

Construction for the new elephant pavilion should be completed by mid-September.

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