The Honolulu Zoo is a place of
rescue for many animals. Rusti is a 315-lb male orangutan that
came to the Honolulu Zoo in bad condition about 10 years ago.
Joyce Monteville, a Honolulu Zoo volunteer for 14 years said, “Rusti
was part of a circus act, when he came to the zoo his hair
was matted and he was afraid of many things.”
Rusti was rescued from a private facility on the mainland by
the Orangutan Foundation International (OFI), was originally
a temporary visitor to the zoo. For several years the OFI searched
for a permanent home for Rusti, then in 2004 the Mayor of Honolulu
announced an agreement with the city and OFI to allow Rusti to
stay at the Honolulu Zoo. Within the same year, The Honolulu
City Council approved the building of a new exhibit for Rusti.
The Honolulu Zoo Society was then given the responsibility to
build and manage the construction of the exhibit. The exhibit
was completed in December 2004 and was built with private funding,
costing about $700,000.
At the age of 24, Rusti was given the opportunity to climb his
first tree. Rusti’s new exhibit is approximately 20 times
bigger, and then his original exhibit when he first arrived to
the Honolulu Zoo, 10 years ago.
Violet, a 139-lb female orangutan came to the Honolulu Zoo about
three years ago. Monteville said, “When Violet first came
to us she would hide in the hanging baskets, she was very timid.”
When Rusti and Violet were first introduced to each other they
were scared and getting adjusted to the new environment which
caused them to slowly get along,” Leslie Dean, a Honolulu
Zoo volunteer for 12 years said, “Today Rusti and Violet
are inseparable, Rusti follows Violet everywhere she goes and
they share food with each other.”
The orangutan is the only great ape found in Asia; they are found
only in rainforests of the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. The
orangutan is a very intelligent primate and is one of man’s
closest relative sharing 97 percent of the same DNA.
Orangutans have long arms and large hands which allow them to
spend most of their time in trees. Male orangutans are twice
the size of female orangutans and can weigh up to 200 pounds
and reach the height of five feet. Monteville said, “Orangutans
can live to about 40 years old in the wild, and up to 50 years
old in captivity.”
Orangutans are solitarity animals and usually travel alone or
in small groups, consisting of two females, dependent young,
and occasionally an adult male. Adult male orangutans usually
travel alone, and bellow loudly through their large cheek flaps
when looking for a female orangutan. Male orangutans also bellow
loudly to claim territory from other male orangutans.
A baby orangutan will stay with its mother until it is six to
10 years old. Female orangutans usually have four to five orangutans
in her lifetime.
Orangutans are mostly vegetarian animals. At the Honolulu Zoo,
Rusti and Violet’s lettuce or fruit is hung from their
hanging baskets or climbing ropes. Female orangutans are smaller
and lighter than male orangutans allowing them to climb trees
while the male stays low to the ground, said Monteville. Violet
climbs onto the hanging baskets and Rusti keeps close by her.
Rusti and Violet’s new exhibit has brought them together,
and now are inseparable. They are a living proof that the Honolulu
Zoo brings animals together, gives them a new home, and hope
for a new and healthy life.