East Hawaii News

Namasté Fans Holding Impromptu Memorial Saturday

January 31, 2014, 1:08 PM HST
* Updated January 31, 1:31 PM
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Fans of the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens’ recently departed tiger Namasté are holding an impromptu memorial observance Saturday at the zoo.

The effort is being spearheaded by Keaau resident Meka Kaiser, who was dismayed by published comments from a county official saying that a memorial service for the beloved tiger would not be held.

Kaiser wrote a letter to a local newspaper saying that she believed some closure was needed.

A substitute teacher, she said any mention of the Hilo zoo in classes she taught brought an immediate chorus of “Namasté!” from the children.

So, her letter said, she planned to ask friends to join her at the zoo at Namasté’s hale at 10:30 a.m. “to take a moment to remember the lasting delight he brought to the keiki and our community.”

“I’ll bring a lei and a box of tissues,” she said. “Plenty of room for everyone.”

However, the comments from Department of Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma, which were made on Jan. 16, the day Namasté was euthanized, were apparently premature.

According to zoo Director Pam Mizuno, the facility is planning to hold a memorial when a granite monument is installed on Namasté’s gravesite inside the one-acre tiger enclosure.

The county, which operates the zoo, is coordinating the preparation of the monument which is being funded by the non-profit Friends of the Panaewa Zoo.

Mizuno said knowing how endeared the white Bengal tiger became to the community, she can understand the sentiment behind Kaiser’s plans.

“Everybody just seems to be jumping the gun,” she said.

Mizuno said the monument is expected to be ready in several weeks.

Friends’ vice-president Pat Engelhard said she also can appreciate the emotion driving Kaiser’s plan.

“It just takes a while to get these kinds of things done,” she said.

Nevertheless, Engelhard said she and likely other members of Friends will be at the zoo Saturday morning in honor of the animal that had become the embodiment of the zoo.

The wheels are already in motion for the zoo to obtain another tiger.

Mizuno said renovations to the enclosure necessary to safely contain a younger animal are underway.

And, she said Dirk Arthur, the Las Vegas magician who in 1999 donated Namasté to the zoo when he was a cub, has expressed interest in providing another tiger.

Given the uncertainties of tiger pregnancies and births, Mizuno could not say when that would occur, but she hopes it will happen within a year.

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