Wildlife Waystation may be forced to shutter


Without a husband or children of her own, Martine Colette says her more than 400 animals, including tigers, bears, monkeys and others, are her family.

Colette opened the sanctuary 35 years ago in the Angeles National Forest near Lake View Terrace. It was once billed the nation's largest exotic animal sanctuary. Sadly, Colette says the economy has devastated fundraising.

"Our donations are down by approximately 50-percent, maybe more. We've had economic problems along the 35-year road, but we've never faced anything like we're facing today," said Colette.

The sanctuary is tens of thousands of dollars in debt, according to Colette. She said it costs $142,000 a month to operate the facility.

The facility had to close to the public nearly a decade ago because it lacked the funds needed to make upgrades in order to obtain a new conditional use work permit from Los Angeles County.

Colette says it's important for the public to visit the sanctuary because of people like Walter Fleisher, who often visited when it was open to the public.

She says while private donors have been great, public visitors would donate as well.

"With his passing, [Walter Fleisher] left the Wildlife Waystation $250,000 about 10 or 15 years ago," said Colette.

Colette says if the sanctuary closes, she fears the worst could happen to the animals.

"There are no appropriate places available for these types of animals in the United States. These animals could die, and euthanasia it is not an option for me, but they could die," said Colette.

"I can't imagine something like that happening. This is my sanctuary, too. It's our sanctuary. I can't imagine it not being here and not being able to come here," said volunteer Alyson Rousseau.

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