HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A California couple is fighting to get their pet Nene birds returned from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Robert Stanley and his wife, Katherine Meyers have been raising nine of the endangered birds on their two acre farm in San Diego County.
In court documents the couple say they rescued the Nene between 2012 and 2015 after the birds were abandoned at fairgrounds in Arizona and California.
Stanley and Meyers are known for breeding award winning poultry and frequent farm competitions and shows.
In October of 2012, they say a man told them he was going to leave behind his two Nene unless the couple took them. They did, naming them Lilo and Stitch.
In the court affidavit Stanley writes that the birds "would have been destroyed or die without our intervention."
In April of 2015 and again in October of that year, they found two more, naming them Hero and Eva.
"These birds have been marked and that they've been pinioned so if you leave a Nene in the wild without the ability to fly, it would face almost certain destruction," says the couple's attorney Shawn Huston.
Pictures of their farm show the pens the Nene were being kept in there were kiddie pools and crates with towels.
The four birds had goslings over the years.
Last month, federal agents seized all nine citing violations to the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
There are multiple rules for the various endangered species, and the couple claimed they didn't know they needed special permits to keep and breed Nene.
"They have to micro chip or band it, and their wings have to be pinioned or clipped and so these birds were not," says Huston, "So when the government came out I don't think they had much of a choice they had to take the birds and that, of course, upset my clients because they treat them like family."
Huston says Stanley and Meyers are working with the federal agency to get that done so they can get the Nene back.
The Hawaiian goose is endemic to the islands and exclusively found in the wild on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Hawaii Island.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not answer our questions about the rules for keeping Nene as pets.
The State Department of Land and Natural Resources did get back to Hawaii News Now saying it is illegal to keep Nene without state and federal permits.