Our Islands, Our Future

The East Maui Animal Refuge (EMAR), a kindhearted nonprofit, was established to care for any animal, domestic, farm or wildlife, in distress, when no individual or other organization is available to deliver the necessary care. “We provide this care at no charge to the individual or group who rescued the animal,” said Sylvan Schwab, EMAR Executive Director and co-founder. “Any financial assistance provided to us is given freely as a donation to support the mission of the Refuge.”

EMAR began in 1977 as a unique therapy program for Suzie Schwab, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sylvan, her husband, noticed that her caring for an injured bird gave Suzie the strength to fight her illness, and so he began bringing home more animals in need of her loving care. Consequently, her therapy program developed into EMAR, a unique rehabilitation center with 300-500 animals being cared for at any given time; 365 days a year. “Incredibly, for 41 years the love Suzie showered upon the animals contributed to her recovery from cancer until her passing in 2018,” Sylvan explained. “Suzie’s compassion and love for the animals inspired and sustained EMAR’s mission. Since most of the animals have come to us with injuries or ‘boo boos’ of one type or another, EMAR is also known as the ‘Boo Boo Zoo.’”

Licensed by the state to rehabilitate animals, EMAR continues to care for animals that are unwanted, have been abused or abandoned, or cannot be cared for properly. “We provide a sanctuary where they can live out their lives happy and loved,” Sylvan said. “Our committed volunteers work tirelessly to sustain our organization, many of whom have been with us for over ten years.” Sylvan’s vision is to one day start a Community Veterinary Clinic, with a veterinarian that lives on-site. He reflected, “Many people cannot afford emergency veterinary services, which are presently extremely expensive on Maui. I have always felt that if you do the right thing, the universe will support you. We are not about money; we are about life. We are doing what is pono and that’s what matters.”

I am grateful to all those in the community who help the animals in whatever way they can.” Visit us at: for more information.

Sylvan Schwab, EMAR Executive Director and co-founder