Helping Hands in Maui – A Visit to the Boo Boo Zoo

I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. I’m not great with directions and as I drove up the wooded drive it didn’t look like what I thought an animal sanctuary should look like. The peacock convinced me otherwise, as did the small army of cats that followed my car as I approached Maui’s famous zoo of last resort.

I’m a huge animal lover. As in bleeding heart, love all animals (almost) and get upset when I see or hear about anything bad happening to them. We have three rescued dogs at home and it’s only my fear of hoarder accusations that prevents me from adopting more. When I started describing my love of animals to new friends on Maui during a 2012 media trip, they told me that I had to visit the Boo Boo Zoo.

Officially known as the East Maui Animal Refuge, what is known locally as the Boo Boo Zoo has been rescuing animals who have no place to go for more than thirty years. The owner, Sylvan Schwab, has brought animals into the sanctuary that had been left for dead or just didn’t have a chance in the outside world. It’s a no-kill sanctuary and I was surprised at the variety of animals on the property.


boo boo zoo

As you will see in the video interview below, Mr. Schwab started the sanctuary not only out of his deep love for animals, but as a form of therapy for his wife who had been diagnosed with cancer. He wanted to provide a project that would give her a reason to live and it worked. Today the work still goes strong with Sylvan and an army of volunteers taking incredible care of the animals every day.

It was sad for me to visit because so many of the animals were injured, sick or suffering, which is why they were at the refuge. But of course I know the work at the sanctuary is important and was happy to see the love and care the volunteers have for the residents. The Boo Boo Zoo tries to adopt out as many animals as possible, but many are simply un-adoptable. They’re too sick or infirm for anyone to want to take them in.

I was incredibly moved by the deep love Mr. Schwab has for the animals in the sanctuary, and was sad to learn that funding is a constant struggle. It’s expensive to take care of all of these animals in the proper way and any and all donations are always welcome. I’ve provided a link to their web site and if you’re so inclined, there’s an opportunity for you to give to the zoo directly. I’m also giving away two charms/pendants I bought on Maui that were designed as a fundraiser for the Boo Boo Zoo. They are animal designs and were made in the Maui rainforest from natural stone. I’ll give them away randomly to two lucky people who comment on this post.

Here is the interview I conducted with Sylvan. I hope you enjoy learning more about this remarkable sanctuary as much as I did.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

4 thoughts on “Helping Hands in Maui – A Visit to the Boo Boo Zoo”

  1. Thank you for giving this very deserving small sanctuary some exposure. I love going to visit the animals at the Boo Boo Zoo and I’m in awe of the love that radiates from the hard working volunteers that keep this facility going!

  2. I first heard of Boo Boo Zoo from one of our volunteers who looks after our rescue horse at SALI’s Farm in Fort Langley, Canada. Boo Boo Zoo is a great inspiration for me because I also hope to one day have many different species of rescue animals at our farm.

  3. I’m so moved and touched that there are people like Sylvan in the world! It takes a special kind of person with a huge heart and generous spirit to sacrifice so much for those who are unable to help themselves, and his tireless devotion to the animals of Maui who depend on him is truly heartwarming. As sad as some of the animals’ individual stories may be, to know that they now have a safe and loving home brings a tear to my eye. While it would be nice to think that Sylvan’s work won’t be needed forever, it’s still good to know that he’ll be there as long as possible. All of us who love animals need to support him as much as we’re able so that the selfless work of the Boo boo Zoo can continue.

  4. The East Maui Animal Refuge is a gem. Every visitor who has a love for animals should meet Sylvan and take the tour. He is an amazing person and his dedication to his family and the animals is inspiring. Good work on finding a special place that is unique and makes Maui Maui. Aloha

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