The Great Black Swan Debate

The Great Black Swan Debate title=
Black swans swimming in the Santa Barbara Harbor (Photo by Susan Lafond)
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By edhat staff

Animal activists and rescue groups have been debating the recent rescue of five black swans in Santa Barbara's Harbor in recent weeks.

At the beginning of the month, residents and visitors alike began marveling and snapping photos of the black swans that are rarely seen outside captivity in Southern California.

The swans were reportedly removed by a local animal rescue group and there appear to be some arguments over whether they should have been displaced at all.

An article published by the Montecito Journal and written by Gretchen Lieff (writer and Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network board member) and Nick Masuda, states the Animal Rescue Team led by Julia Di Sieno captured the five black swans. 

"The scene was a chaotic one, as conflicting instructions led to some demanding that the black swans be left alone, while Di Sieno and her group believed the rescue effort was necessary due to the Harbor water containing materials potentially harmful to the herd," the article reads.  

Tony Masiel, President of the Santa Ynez Valley-based Animal Rescue Team, penned a letter to several local media outlets taking aim at Lieff alleging she engaged in "deplorable and disruptive behavior" during the rescue.

He claimed the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) knew about the swans and failed to act and save the birds from what he deemed as an unsafe environment. He stated the Animal Rescue Team was able to rescue the swans, and "after a thorough assessment by a veterinarian" were relocated to a safe refuge at an undisclosed location.

"This was accomplished despite Gretchen's disruption, and another SBWCN volunteer verbally assaulting ART during the rescue, even attempting to hinder the rescue effort by throwing stones at the swans to shoo them away," wrote Masiel.

Shortly after his email, SBWCN responded with its own statement on the swan events. The nonprofit claims since receiving reports of the swan's location, multiple staff members and volunteers to the harbor to actively monitor them. Their staff did not witness signs of distress or danger and received multiple reports of the swans flying, according to the statement.

"Since the day the swans arrived, SBWCN staff was actively communicating with the applicable federal and state agencies to determine the best course of action. SBWCN had a plan in place to safely retrieve the swans if and when it was determined they were in danger. The team was awaiting advice from an additional expert with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the time Animal Rescue Team (ART) was capturing the swans on Tuesday, May 4," the statement reads.

Once captured, the swans were reportedly transported to SBWCN to be examined by veterinarian Dr. Avery Berkowitz. After a full exam, it was determined the swans were in good general health and ART transported them to a private home whose residents prefer to remain anonymous.

"Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s primary concern was the health and safety of the swans, and staff worked with ART throughout this process to ensure the best outcome for these animals," the statement reads.

Whether the swans should have been rescued or should have been left alone appears to be up for debate. 

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 May 3, 2021: Black Swans in the Santa Barbara Harbor

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SBTownie May 13, 2021 05:30 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I agree. This story is insane. I support SBWCN financially and I believe they acted correctly here. This other group, ART, basically stole wild animals (they still seem wild even if non-native, like a billion other species including the honeybee or the sparrow) to give to some person as pets? A big WTF.

a-1620943262 May 13, 2021 03:01 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

The California Fish and Wildlife revoked the license of di Sieno's Animal Rescue Team in 2019. It has not been restored - the agency is not listed on the state website; perhaps di Sieno is now an employee or volunteer with the SBWCN?

What right does she have to "rescue" these birds and transfer them to a private property and refuse to say where they have gone? I agree it seems wrong to prevent these birds from flying. Hopefully, the state agency should step in and determine what should have been done and should be done in future situations and, hopefully, free these birds or returning them to the original owner.

hz May 13, 2021 02:56 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

it the birds seemed happy and not in distress..they should have been left alone...other black swans have been sighted..who knows, this might just be a natural evolution or like the parrots of san franciso...a flock of black swans adapting to living wild and free...so now they are privately owned..possibly clipping wings so they become an ornament in some rich persons private estate! :0{ how much did they donate for the swans!!!!

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 09:58 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Yes as they should be. They are not native here and have no business being in the wild. All they will do is damage the ecosystem

Z May 13, 2021 02:39 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Leave the birds alone. Thursday last week, around noon, I saw three black swans flying down the Santa Ynez River slough at Ocean Beach Park. They were definitely not in distress and apparently not looking for a private owner.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 09:57 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

You 100% did not see them flying. They are not native to here. They are found in Australia, and in freshwater. Why would anyone want more invasive species here??

Ahchooo May 13, 2021 02:20 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

According to the Montecito Journal article, the swans wings had not been clipped, which is the usual procedure with pet swans, to keep them from flying off. They implied that the new owners will be doing that. I’d prefer they didn’t. If they provide a good environment, wouldn’t the swans come “home” if they liked it there? Seems wrong not to let birds fly.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 11:47 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Plus look, if these other comments are to be belived, people have been seeing them flying all over the area. aka INVASIVE

MarcelK May 15, 2021 11:25 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Threats-to-Wildlife/Invasive-Species "An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian (like the cane toad), plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy, or even human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label “invasive.”" -- So these black swans are not an invasive species.

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