Categorized | Environment

Grant for Honolulu Zoo elephant study

Vaigai at the Honolulu Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Manny Dayao)

(Editor’s Note: This has very little to do with the Big Island, but Hawaii 24/7 supports efforts to better care for animals and the natural world we all share. Plus it is a long holiday weekend and the photos are too cute.)


Thanks to an $800,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Honolulu Zoo Society (HZS) will coordinate a collaborative study on elephant well-being in zoos.

The three-year study is scheduled to begin Dec. 1. The project, “Using Science to Understand Zoo Elephant Welfare,” is a broad-based scientific study of the well-being of all elephants in AZA accredited zoos, which involves nearly 290 Asian and African elephants.

When complete, the study will provide zoos around the world with information that will contribute to their ongoing efforts to ensure elephant well-being.

The $800,000 National Leadership grant will be used to collect and integrate a wide spectrum of behavioral, health, and well-being measures of an entire zoo population.

The science-based study evaluates elephant welfare across a broad range of measurements, and assesses the impact of zoo management practices by looking at the elephants’ responses to differences in practices among zoos.

“This study is not designed to say that one facility is ‘bad’ and another ‘good,’ but is designed to assist zoos in putting their resources where they can do the most to benefit elephants in human care,” said Dr. Kathy Carlstead, research director for HZS. “Zoos place the highest priority on the care of their animals, and this study will use science to determine how we can continue to improve upon the care of our elephants.”

IMLS National Leadership Grants support projects that will advance the ability of museums and libraries to preserve culture, heritage, and knowledge while enhancing learning. As institutions for learning, zoos are considered museums with living exhibits.

“National Leadership grantees help us better understand and advance best practice in museums, libraries, and archives,” said Marsha L. Semmel, IMLS Acting Director.

Partners on the National Leadership grant for this elephant study are the Honolulu Zoo Society andHonolulu Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society, Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Toledo Zoo, University of California at Davis, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Additional consultants include scientists at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Palm Beach Zoo, Columbus Zoo, University of British Columbia, and George Mason University.

The Honolulu Zoo Society is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit support organization of the Honolulu Zoo, whose mission is to foster an appreciation of our living world by supporting and advocating environmental education,recreation, biological study, and conservation activities at the Honolulu Zoo.

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Mari and Vaigai enjoy the spray at Honolulu Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Manny Dayao)

Mari and Vaigai enjoy the spray at Honolulu Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Manny Dayao)

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