Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Seized monkey
heads to the zoo

A critter confiscated in a SWAT
raid will go to the Big Island
after doing time in a bar

Last month, a SWAT team raided a Makiki house to recover a 2-year-old squirrel monkey transferred from an aquarium-style display behind the bar at the Blue Tropix Restaurant & Nightclub.

Nightclub co-owner Darren Tsuchiya had sold the young, male monkey to a man who did not have the proper state permit or bond to own a restricted animal. The man was cited and fined $1,000.

Tsuchiya was cited Oct. 8 and fined $200 for failing to comply with bond conditions required for possessing a nonhuman primate. His permit for the monkey was revoked and he was forced to forfeit the $1,000 bond he had for the monkey.

But animal-rights activists complained to the state Board of Agriculture, asking for an investigation and the revocation of the permits for the three other squirrel monkeys still on display at the bar in their soundproof, climate-controlled enclosure.

The board, acting on staff recommendations based on an investigation, voted unanimously yesterday to dismiss the complaint and not hold a contested-case hearing, a trial-like proceeding.

The board acknowledged that revoking the permit, retaining the bond and fining Tsuchiya was all that it had authority to do. Under state law, the board has power over containment of animals, but animal welfare is under federal jurisdiction.

As for the permits for the three other monkeys, Domingo Cravalho Jr., lead agricultural investigator, told the board, "The permit for that one monkey was the only one we had jurisdiction over."

Reached at his nightclub, Tsuchiya said: "We're in compliance. Blue Tropix has always done its best to cooperate with all of the proper authorities as well as take the best possible care of the monkeys here."

The monkey recovered from the Makiki home is expected to make his new home in the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo on the Big Island.

A SWAT team was used in the monkey's recovery because the Makiki homeowner had four registered firearms.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not issued an exhibitors license to the club. That issue is still pending.

Squirrel monkeys are native to the tropical rain forests of Brazil, eastern Peru and Bolivia. They live high in the tree canopy, often in large troops, where they run and leap from branch to branch.

Cathy Goeggel, president of Animal Rights Hawaii, has filed complaints with various boards, held protests at the bar and even sent someone into the bar undercover to film the monkeys.

"These monkeys are in a glass aquarium that's very long and there are tree branches for them, but no leaves," she said. "They have no place to hide. It affects their behavior."

After the hearing, Goeggel said, "It is very clear that the state has set itself up statute-wise that they really have no authority or concern in the welfare of animals."

Board members discussed the limitations of state statutes and the need to draft legislation with more limits on the possession of nonhuman primates.

Board member Carl Carlson Jr. said: "Our role is to ensure containment, and one is sold and we impose only a $200 fine. We are missing our responsibility."



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