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 Zoo News

Mindy Runnells – Zoo Director

When guests come to the Zoo, it is often wondered, ‘Where do these animals come from?’  There are various places and outlets where animals can come from and go into a zoo facility. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) reports that AZA-accredited facilities house over 8,700 different species of animals!

With so many facilities caring for animals, animals are unlikely to come from the wild. There are a few circumstances where it does happen. The most likely reason animals come from the wild is an unsuccessful rehabilitation situation. Animals found injured in the wild are often taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center. Animal care professionals take care of these animals with the intent of releasing them back into the wild. Due to the severity of injuries, occasionally, these animals cannot be re-released. If an animal cannot move to the fullest of its ability and completely use its faculties, it cannot be released. These animals can be placed in an animal facility. The Panaʻewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens has several non-releasable animals in the collection. Our nene, pueo, and ʻio are all birds that cannot be released back into the wild.

A special situation that we have here in Hawaiʻi is the protection of our native wildlife against animals from off the islands. The tropical environment is the perfect home for many species around the planet. The state and federal governments can place animals in a zoological facility if animals are found or confiscated. The Zoo has gotten quite a few animals from this avenue. Several examples include the alligator lizard, Cuban knight anole, the boa constrictor, iguanas, and many other reptiles.



Animals can also be donated to the Zoo. The public can end up with exotic animals because so many different species are available in the pet trade. Wild animals are never tamed or domesticated; they often do not make good house pets. This can lead to people having an animal they cannot properly provide for or care for. Many species can live a very long time and outlive their owners. Many of our domestic breeds and parrots at the Zoo have been donated.

Most animals living in zoological facilities have come from other facilities. This is the most common route for zoos. Since so many animals live in human care, there are programs to trade and move animals around the country and the world! Breeding programs are very regulated to ensure space in these facilities for animals for their entire lives. Genetic diversity is also considered, and animals may move to other facilities to breed. The Zoo has many animals from other facilities, including the tigers, sloths, binturongs, and turkey vulture.


In some situations, animals may be collected from the wild under significantly regulated conditions and permitting. This is to increase the population’s genetic diversity in the care of humans. This is usually part of a breed and release program. Facilities are adding back to the wild population, and the collection from the native region is important to the diversity of the breeding program’s success.

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