Honolulu Zoo

Around 600,000 people visit the Honolulu Zoo annually. It is the largest zoo within a radius of 2,300 miles and unique in that it is the only zoo in the United States originating from a King’s grant of royal lands to the people. King David Kalakaua, Monarch of Hawai`i from 1874 to 1891, made lands of the Leahi Land Holdings available in 1876 to the people for a thirty year lease. That year, a “Kapiolani Park Association” of two hundred subscriber members assumed the administration of the three hundred-acre park. The marshy parcel was a muddle of fishponds, lagoons and islands where King Kalakaua maintained his collection of exotic birds. In 1877 the area was named after the King’s wife and opened as Queen Kapiolani Park.

Park Association members supported the unpromising park with the help of royal grants through 1894. In those days, the park’s primary attractions were the exotic bird collection and horse racing, especially the running of the Rosita Cup, held annually on King Kamehameha Day.

Peacocks, trees, and palms were added to the park, with plantings obtained from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Roads and trolley lines were extended to include “Waikiki Road at Makee”, today’s intersection of Kalakaua and Kapahulu Avenues. The park was permanently established in 1896 and the City and County of Honolulu assumed administration of city parks in 1914. Today, the zoo continues under the administration of the City, but as a part of the Department of Enterprise Services.

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