Click here for EnviroWatch Letter to the Editor - Honolulu Advertiser - written 2/5/04  (last letter on page)


Many stories have appeared in the media, many claims have been made, and there is much confusion.  Here are the facts about Rusti’s placement in Hawaii:


·  Rusti came to the Honolulu Zoo in 1997 (Shipping Agreement dated 8-6-97), from a roadside zoo in New Jersey.  His new “owner” became Orangutan Foundation International (OFI).  Per language on the Shipping Agreement, the “loan terms expire January 31, 1998, at which time the orangutan must either be transferred to Panaewa Zoo, or back to the care of Orangutan Foundation International.”  Therefore, Rusti’s stay at the Honolulu Zoo was supposed to be only temporary.


·  In a July 2, 1999 article printed in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Zoo Director Ken Redman is quoted as saying that the Zoo “could not provide adequate housing with the substandard concrete and chain link pen.”  The orangutan has languished in this barren, substandard cage for 7 years, with little to no veterinary care, largely at the expense of taxpayers in Honolulu.  OFI spoke with Parker Ranch on the Big Island, but Parker Ranch would not accept Rusti there.  OFI also contacted Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.


·  In an OFI press release dated February 11, 2003, OFI stated they would “build a state-of-the-art orangutan sanctuary at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu for Rusti, an adult male orangutan.”  It never materialized.


·   After 7 years, OFI negotiated with John Morgan of Kualoa Ranch, which is a private ranch and outdoor recreational facility.  Rusti would be transferred there.


·   The State Department of Agriculture approved the transfer on 2-20-03.


·  The City and County of Honolulu cited Orangutan Foundation International (“tenant/violator”) on March 20, 2003, for a “chain linked/CMU animal enclosure built without a building permit.  The structure is approximately 12’ x 25’, located in the area of the petting zoo.”   At the bottom of the violation notice, it read:  “If the structure is to be used to house a primate (orangutan), a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) is also required.”   


·   On 8-27-03, EnviroWatch, Inc. filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling with the City Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP).  The Petition raised environmental, public health and safety, and zoning issues. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW PETITION)


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. argued an orangutan facility at Kualoa Ranch had the potential to adversely impact area residents, the environment, and the community-at-large, and submitted numerous documents and arguments to substantiate this.  EnviroWatch, Inc. was also concerned about government cover-ups, fraud and abuse, and about the welfare of Rusti, should he be sent to Kualoa Ranch.


·  DPP has a history of lax or improper oversight of Kualoa Ranch’s facility.  For example, because Kualoa Ranch is on the Historic Register, an Environmental Assessment is required.  DPP withheld documents from EnviroWatch, Inc. and would not respond to our UIPA (Uniform Information Practices Act) request, as required by law.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. filed a request for investigation with Council member Ann Kobayashi, who is the Budget and Finance Committee Chair.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. included numerous documents, including billings and e-mails between the Zoo Director (Ken Redman), the Director of Enterprise Services (Barry Fukunaga), Zoo staff, Planning and Permitting Director Eric Crispin, and OFI, which illustrated behind-the-scenes or backroom dealings, the spending of taxpayer money for a privately-owned animal, the unofficial use of City employees for OFI, and the informal and questionable way transactions were processed.   


·  To this day, we have received no response to our request for investigation.


·  On 10-27-03, Planning and Permitting Director Eric Crispin issued a partial Declaratory Ruling.   Essentially, Crispin said it would be “premature and purely speculative” to rule on the land use and permits required to house Rusti at Kualoa Ranch, because “no proposal or plan had been submitted for an orangutan facility”.


·  On 11-24-03, EnviroWatch, Inc. filed an Appeal of the Director’s ruling to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) because Crispin had made false claims.  As part of that statement, we filed a Position Statement. On 11-24-03, EnviroWatch, Inc. filed an Appeal of the Director’s ruling to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) because Crispin had made false claims.  As part of that statement, we filed a Position Statement. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW POSITION STATEMENT)


·  The Appeal sought relief from Crispin’s abuse of discretion, erroneous statements, and arbitrary and capricious ruling.  EnviroWatch, Inc. provided numerous documents proving Crispin had falsely claimed in his ruling, because OFI had indeed submitted drawings, videos, and proposals for an orangutan facility.  We obtained copies of many e-mails and documented phone calls which were held by Crispin and OFI to discuss the planned facility, from other City offices.


·  On 3-11-04, the Director’s attorney filed a Motion to Dismiss the Appeal on the basis that it was moot.  The Appeal was dismissed.  EnviroWatch, Inc. informed the ZBA that their dismissal was bogus, and we had more than sufficiently satisfied the criteria for winning our Appeal.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc’s documents and facts of government waste, fraud and abuse are overwhelming.  One of OFI’s lawyers (John Van Dyke) informed news reporters that they decided not to send Rusti to Kualoa Ranch  because they were concerned with the legal and environmental issues raised by EnviroWatch, Inc.


·  Mayor Jeremy Harris intervened, and without any public participation he entered into an  agreement with OFI to keep Rusti at the Zoo.


·  When City Council raised legitimate, important concerns about the terms of the agreement, which posed liability risks to the City and its taxpayers, Mayor Harris attacked the Council in media stories, by claiming they were insensitive, and obstructionists.


·  Yet this is the same Mayor who allowed Rusti to sit in a small, barren cage for 7 years!  His newfound concern for the animal and his welfare are laughable. (see pictures of Rusti's cage)


·  Rusti has become a ping-pong ball not because the City Council has acted to protect the public’s interest but because of the suspect relationship between the Mayor and OFI.


·  It was Mayor Harris who introduced the problem by ordering his appointees to authorize Rusti’s protracted “loan” to the City, without proper veterinary care and largely at the taxpayer’s expense.


·  We have documents showing that the Mayor gave a gift to OFI, but when asked what the gift was, and more specifics about the gift, no one could remember.


·  Rusti was essentially abandoned for the past 7 years, and his fate remains in limbo.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. has uncovered e-mail communications between Zoo Director Ken Redman and the Zoo staff, addressing the Mayor’s recent agreement with OFI to keep Rusti at the Honolulu Zoo.  These e-mails indicate that, not only did Mayor Harris not consult the public before entering into this agreement, he did not even consult the Zoo Director and staff.  For example:  “Talk about chicken shit, that just about describes us in a nutshell.  I’m pretty angry about the whole thing and am about through standing silent behind Ken’s gutless approach to the whole issue.”  And:  “...yet it is mandatory for the Honolulu Zoo to participate since we now have an orangutan (sort of).  We can beg off by saying that a little piece of our Zoo is not really ours and we don’t really have an orangutan but that may be a tough sell.”  Also:  “What we discussed is OFI funding an exhibit suitable for Rusti and not much else (our City Administration wants to ‘rescue’ Rusti but not invest any money)”.  And:  “I stipulate that we would have to attain ownership of Rusti if he were to stay here, but my City bosses think a management agreement with OFI still owning him will work out - something that I am very uncomfortable agreeing to.”


·  On May 28, 2003, KITV News reported that OFI “has spent most of the money it raised for his care on failed attempts to move him to a new home”, and that the “Attorney General’s Office confirmed it has opened an inquiry to find out if the nonprofit Orangutan Foundation solicited money for Rusti but used it elsewhere.”


·  We hope that these facts have set the record straight.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. will continue to press the issue so that Rusti the orangutan can be assured of a decent, adequate facility with proper enrichment and healthcare.   

·  Rusti is a Great Ape and deserves better treatment.  Carroll Cox, President of EnviroWatch, Inc. has witnessed Rusti sitting and playing in pools of his own urine and chewing on urine-soaked rags for hours.      (Click here for Pictures)


·  It’s no wonder Rusti sings the blues.


·  EnviroWatch, Inc. has obtained a letter from OFI to Zoo Director Ken Redman and the Zoo Staff dated August 25, 1997, which states, “As you know, Rusti had a television for the past 7 years from dawn to dusk both in New Jersey and Los Angeles Zoo.”   And, in an April 30, 1997 letter, Nancy Briggs of OFI stated “This is the knowledge I have on his diet:  He hates water – plain.  Please flavor the water with Tang and give him Gatorade and give him lemonade.”  The letter also lists other foods that should be given to Rusti by the Honolulu Zoo, including peanut butter, bubble gum, oatmeal and maple syrup and brown sugar, asparagus, cantaloupe” and others.  It says “He must watch television cartoons twice a day.  He is accustomed to a hammock.”  

(Click here for 8/25/97 letter.  Note remarks made by OFI regarding his proposed sanctuary, claiming they will "not only provide Rusti  with a large enclosure, but trees, and in addition, in the tradition of Washoe, Koko, Chantik, and the Think Tank at the National Zoo--we will work with computers, language, television, Earthwatch research, and behavioral modification including rewards or treats just the way these projects do" )

(Click here for 4/30/97 letter regarding diet)


·  However, as witnessed by Carroll Cox, Rusti sits in his own urine on a concrete floor, with no television and very little other enrichment.  The cage contained a urine-soaked rag, a cardboard box, a plastic stool, a hammock, and a sleeping box.  Please refer to the photos we have taken, shown on this website.  These conditions exist at the Honolulu Zoo, under Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration, and under ownership by OFI.


·  But, let there be no confusion -- it is Mayor Harris who is responsible and must be held accountable for his actions and inactions. 

·  If you want to help Rusti, call the Mayor and City Council and encourage them to do what’s right for Rusti and the taxpayers.  Let the Mayor know that we are aware of his tactics and relationship with OFI, and his attempt to put the blame on the City Council.


·  All of our documents are not on this website, but if you have a bona fide concern that any facts are not accurate, please feel free to contact us and we will provide the requested documents.