By Jennifer Schlueter
A good five miles off San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods, the Wildlife Waystation is embedded into the midst of the dry hills of the Los Angeles National Forest. Run by director Martine Colette, this animal sanctuary houses hundreds of neglected animals from all over the world – tigers, lions, chimpanzees and other exotics as well as goats, llamas and raccoons, etc., on 160 acres of land.
Colette began taking in abandoned animals in the mid-sixties, and opened the Wildlife Waystation about a decade later. For a few years now, the place, which once welcomed busloads of people, has been shut down. Colette says that they are waiting on their Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the County to officially reopen the sanctuary, which could take any time between 8 and 18 months. The CUP would help to revive funding as well as provide children and adults with an important education about wildlife.
During our visit, a close friend and associate of Colette’s, Jerry Brown – not to be confused with our current governor – and Colette walked us around the sanctuary to show us the animals who call the Wildlife Waystation home.
As soon as Colette approached each cage, the animals walked up to her and greeted her with a friendly grunt, excited screams, or rubbing against the fence to receive a soft stroke or a treat. Who would have thought chimpanzees, bears, monkeys, and hyenas alike savor Twizzlers? We also got to see a liger, a man-made cross between a lion and a tiger, copulating tortoises, a three-legged goat, freely roaming peacocks, cockatoos, and a porcupine. According to Colette, native rattlesnakes peacefully share the space with other animals as well as visiting humans.
One of the station’s tigers with a milky eye and a hunchback caught my attention. Colette explained that he was bred solely to pose in photo shoots next to skimpily clad women. Because nobody cared, his poor breeding left him with a deformed back and feet, malfunctioning digestion, and almost blind. Taking pictures with big cats will only encourage more poor breeding; thus, Colette advises: “Don’t take pictures with baby tigers. Even if it costs you 25 bucks only. Don’t do that because you’re promoting an industry that should not be promoted.”
If you want to support the station’s animals, you can volunteer your time, donate food, goods such as rakes and buckets, or money. For more information on how to help, please visit http://wildlifewaystation.org/support.htm.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/kuPTir33D5s” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>