By Anthony Pignataro
On Monday, Aug. 29, state and federal wildlife officials descended on the East Maui Animal Refuge — the famous “Boo Boo Zoo” — and seized 17 birds as part of a new law enforcement action against the shelter. Ken Foote, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife spokesman, said agents were enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when they seized the birds, which included owls, finches, egrets and cardinals. Foote said he did not know what prompted the investigation, and would not comment on the matter, except to say that it stemmed from the refuge’s “non-compliance with their federal permit. When they entered into the agreement, one of our chief concerns is the health and welfare of the animals.”
Refuge owner Sylvan Schwab was outraged at the investigation. “For 30 years, we have been doing wildlife rehabilitation,” he said. “We are a no-kill sanctuary. Our whole world has been turned upside down.” (click here for an Aug. 29 KITV news story on the investigation that includes additional quotes from Schwab).
Schwab said federal inspectors first showed up last Tuesday, Aug. 23. He said they told him that they would inform him of their findings within 48 hours, but Schwab said he heard nothing until yesterday, when law enforcement agents appeared and began seizing birds (Schwab said the owls will go to the Three Ring Ranch on Hawaii Island).
“I was also told that if anyone other than trained volunteers came into the refuge, then we’d need an exhibition permit from the Department of Agriculture,” Schwab said. “There can’t be any visitors here until we get that permit.”
Schwab added that, right now, his biggest concern are the 13 deer also living in the refuge. “They are habituated to the refuge, and are somewhat domesticated,” he said. “The last [gubernatorial] administration said to keep them here, but now they want them released into the wild. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Deborah Ward, a spokesperson for the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, said her department received a request for a wildlife rehabilitation permit from Schwab. “We conducted a site visit last week,” she said, adding that their evaluation and recommendations would be released “in the near future.”