The Honolulu Zoo has a new mayor — Squirt the giraffe.
The zoo held the virtual election for fun, as well as to raise awareness about endangered species. The two candidates vying for mayor of the zoo were Squirt, the reticulated giraffe, and Rusti, the orangutan. Voting for the candidates took place with likes and hearts on Sunday via the zoo’s Facebook and Instagram pages. The race was close, but Squirt won.
“We had an election for the mayor of the Honolulu Zoo and I’m pleased to announce that Squirt is now the new mayor of the Honolulu Zoo,” said Caldwell during a news conference on Monday, adding that he supported Squirt. “Rusti came in second…Anyway we’re just really proud. Both of them ran on conservation platforms trying to protect our planet from poaching, from climate change, and everything else in between.”
Squirt the giraffe, 21, pledged to create a safer environment by protecting animals from poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and by committing to a cleaner, more sustainable environment by promoting renewable energy. He also committed to planting more trees for a “yummy browse for everyone.” Squirt was born and raised at Honolulu Zoo, but has strong ties to his roots in the Horn of Africa.
Rusti the orangutan, 40, was born in Seattle but has been a longtime star of the zoo. The orangutan with ties to his ancestral home in Indonesia wanted to stop excessive cutting of the rainforest for palm oil, timber, pulp, rubber, mineral extraction and agriculture. As mayor, he planned to create a safer jungle home by increasing conservation education in the community and by starting a labeling system locally for forest friendly products. He, too, was committed to planting more trees for everyone to browse.
In a Facebook post, the Honolulu Zoo said Squirt was very honored to accept his new role as mayor, and that he named Rusti as the zoo’s conservation and education czar for habitat protection.
“He thanks everyone for their participation and hopes to work closely with the new mayor of the City and County of Honolulu to continue to promote conservation and awareness and appreciates Mayor Caldwell’s support and commitment to the Honolulu Zoo over the past 8 years,” the post said.
Caldwell said the zoo is important in promoting conservation and awareness, and offering the public an opportunity to connect with animals. Other U.S. zoos have held animal mayoral races as fundraisers.