Ken Redman

Steve Murray
Wednesday - December 14, 2005
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Ken Redman
Ken Redman

Though an amusing employment ad on TV suggests how hard it is to work with a bunch of monkeys, for some there could be no better job. Ken Redman, who appeared on MidWeek‘s cover in April 1994, is the director of the Honolulu Zoo and he may wonder if it’s the human that is causing the stress and not his biological cousin.

“Animals are a lot easier to deal with than people,” he says. “Animals let you know what they are thinking. If they don’t like you, they’ll let you know. They don’t beat around the bush.”

Redman says the zoo is in a period of growth to help bring humans and animals closer while providing better environment for both. Two new Sumatran tigers were added to the family, a new animal clinic has just been opened and coming in January, made especially for 6- to 11-year-olds, a petting zoo. But if the adults aren’t careful, they may learn something too.

“Those will be domestic animals primarily and some reptiles, goats, pigs, ponies, we have some dwarf Zeeboo cattle and little pot-bellied pigs,” he says. “It will be an active area. There will be a koi pond they can crawl through. Instead of just going through a gate to get into the goat yard, there is an adventure entry where you can climb up and slide down a fire-man’s pole into the exhibit.”

The changes may also signal a change in lifestyle for the zoo’s most famous orange-haired bachelor. Rusti got a girlfriend last week.

Violet arrived from San Diego and, after a 30-day quarantine, Violet and Rusti will be slowly introduced - first being separated within the compound and then gradually put together. Though orangutans are mainly solitary creatures in the wild, especially within the same sex, Redman doesn’t see Rusti having any problem with his new roommate.

“He’s really a dynamite, laid- back, easy going male. I think he will welcome her presence.”

The 63-year-old zookeeper is not looking toward retirement soon. In fact, he’s having so much fun that he willingly spends 11 hours a day trying to fulfill the zoo’s basic job.

“Our most important role is to really make an impression with providing a positive experience about appreciating life. So that’s where we come into play. Let’s save a place in this world for all the animals you see in our zoo, in the wild. Let’s translate these messages that we are giving here into conserving a spot for them in Africa, Asia or Hawaii.”

An important goal. - Steve Murray

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