Honolulu Zoo Will Soon Boast a Children’s Discovery Forest

Project Will Demonstrate Culturally Significant Plant Species and More

The Hawai’i Forest Industry Association (HFIA), the Hawai’i Forest Institute (HFI), and community partners are planning the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest, which will be created at the Honolulu Zoo in Waikiki on O’ahu.

Honolulu Zoo Discovery Forest Schematic Design Plan created by Leland Miyano, Jason Umemoto, and Leonard Bisel

The project site is near the zoo entrance and adjacent to the future site of a Native Hawaiian Village. The Discovery Forest will be a representation of natural systems, creating a scene of Hawai’i before the arrival of humans. The exhibit will be designed to demonstrate culturally significant Hawaiian plant species, the significance of place, and the kuleana of mālama ‘āina (responsibility to care for the land) by integrating traditional Hawaiian forest ecosystems, forest stewardship opportunities, and innovative land-based education for residents and visitors.

The Discovery Forest will reconnect urban visitors with the Hawaiian forest through three demonstration zones: strand vegetation, dryland mesic forest species, and Polynesian-introduced species and cultivars. The Discovery Forest will be a place that serves as an ongoing outdoor educational setting in which visitors will learn about the importance of the sustainability of native and Polynesian plantings within a framework of Hawaiian cultural values. The vision is one in which the vast cultural, natural and historical attributes of Hawaii’s endemic and indigenous coastal flora and geology is shared, demonstrating the bond that must be formed between people and ‘āina if both are to thrive.

HFIA was recently awarded a $49,100 Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) Natural Resources Program award, administered by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), for the Discovery Forest. Other project partners include Paepae o He’eia, Conservation Council of Hawai’i, Scenic Hawaii, Inc., Mānoa Heritage Center, Kualoa-Heeia Ecumenical Youth Project (KEY Project), Polynesian Voyaging Society, and O’ahu Resource Conservation & Development Council.

“We extend our mahalo to community partners, HTA, and the CNHA for recognizing the importance of helping visitors, island students and kama´aina expand their appreciation for Hawaii’s forest ecosystems,” said HFIA Executive Director Heather Simmons. “Through the Honolulu Zoo Discovery Forest, we have an opportunity to promote forest awareness and significance to thousands of people.”

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