Categorized | Volunteering

Panaewa Zoo Discovery Forest seeks community volunteers


The Hawaii Forest Industry Association (HFIA) and Hawaii Forest Institute (HFI), along with a dedicated group of community partners, has initiated site work for the Panaewa Zoo Discovery Forest at the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens in Hilo.

Areas have been prepared for the Native Forest and Agro-forest demonstration plots and a community volunteer outplanting event is planned 9 am.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. If you would like to volunteer, contact Mike Donoho at (808) 936-7526 or

Plans for the Panaewa Zoo Discovery Forest include a forest demonstrating native Hawaiian plants; an agro-forest demonstrating cultural, medicinal, overstory, midstory, and understory plants; and interpretive materials.

The project site is located adjacent to one of the zoo’s main attractions, Namaste the white Bengal tiger.

“We hope this project will inspire community volunteers to participate in the creation of this unique forest demonstration project. Our goal is to have volunteers and visitors leave the exhibit with a greater appreciation for Hawaii’s forest ecosystems,” HFIA Executive Director Heather Simmons said.

Landscape Architects, Leonard Bisel Associates (LBA) created preliminary native and agro-forest demonstration design plans.

The native plan provides a tiered effect of native trees, plants, and groundcovers including Naupaka kuahiwi (Scaevola gaudichaudii), Maile (Alyxia stellata), Hapuu pulu (Cibotium glaucum), Kolea (Myrsine lessertiana), and Kopiko (Psychotria hawaiiensis).

Boulders, gravel rock, and stepping pavers provide for a low maintenance viewing platform and add visual interest.

The agro-forest features a strategically-placed viewing platform overlooking low, mid and higher canopy species such as Awa, (Piper methysticum, Noni (Morinda citrifolia), Ulu (Artocarpus altilis), and Milo (Thespesia populnea).

An existing Kukui (Candlenut) and palms are incorporated into the design. Edged planting beds, stone groundcovers, and decorative pavers enhance the plantings.

HFIA is seeking monetary and in-kind donations through the Hawaii Forest Institute, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization. Click on the Discovery Forest webpage on Hawaii Forest Institute’s site, which provides an opportunity to donate either through one-time or planned monthly contributions.

Contributions such as plants and planting materials, interpretive features, signage, and pavers for viewing platforms are being sought.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority contributed $30,000 and the Change Happens Foundation contributed $5,000 to the project. Other project supporters include: Big Island Candies; Aileen’s Nursery; Forest Solutions; Hawaii Community College’s Forest TEAM and Jr. Forest TEAM students; Hawaii Forest & Trail; HPM Building Supply; San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research; Target; Tree Works Inc.; UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources; and the UH Tropical Forestry Program, Forestry and Natural Resource Management class.

Established in 1989, the Hawaii Forest Industry Association (HFIA) is a nonprofit corporation founded by and for people committed to managing and maintaining healthy and productive forests. As Hawaii’s recognized forest industry trade association, HFIA, through education, planning, information exchange, and advocacy, encourages the responsible growth of Hawaii’s forest industry. HFIA’s programs promote healthier forests, increased business, and more jobs within the sector.

HFIA has a diverse membership of more than 220 individuals and private and public organizations, including woodworkers, landowners, sawyers, foresters, growers, environmentalists, government officials, and others interested in the organization’s goals. HFIA promotes a balance of forest land uses ranging from protecting and restoring native forests to managing commercial tree farms.

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