The Great Black Swan Debate
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.
May 3, 2021: Black Swans in the Santa Barbara Harbor