Call of the Wild: Exotic Animal Sanctuary Seeks Financial Help

For 35 years, the Wildlife Waystation has rescued and rehabilitated exotic and native wildlife, but now hundreds of its animals may be in danger.

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Call of the Wild: Exotic Animal Sanctuary Seeks Financial Help
The Wildlife Waystation, near Los Angeles, is home to 62 lions. If the sanctuary isn't rescued from financial doom, its animals, including this King of the Jungle, could be looking for a new home. (Photo: Gary S. Chapman/Getty Images)

Two summers ago I visited the Wildlife Waystation, 30 miles north of Los Angeles, and watched an ape, who had spent 20 years in the darkness of a research laboratory, subject to God-knows-what sort of experiments at the hands of his human relatives, gently take a peanut from the mouth of his new sanctuary handler. The ape enclosure had tree branches for swinging, tricycles for riding, shady spots for resting, and, most of all, sunlight and air. I remember being moved nearly to tears by the animal’s gentleness, his calm, and his ability, after so many years of arbitrary torture, to trust again.

I met a lot of animals that day. I remember seeing the stunningly white Ariana the Ligress sauntering across her enclosure, friendly yet formidable, and a lion whose name I’ve forgotten but whose roar reverberated in my head for days afterward.

Each animal had a story—from mountain lions orphaned by hunters to “Giggles” a bear cat (similar to a civet cat) who had starred in Gremlins 2.

Now The Huffington Post reports that the sanctuary, one of the nation’s oldest, is struggling to stay afloat and feed its 420 animal residents.

Last week, sanctuary founder Martine Colette explained: “If the WayStation does not find a way out from under the horrific financial burden it is currently facing, caused by the current recession and disastrous economic downfall, then all these animals that came to us for safe haven are in real jeopardy.”

Despite sponsorship from Hollywood luminaries like Betty White, Johnny Depp, and Russell Crowe, Colette has had to lay off much of her staff to fund the monthly $142,000 food budget for her animals.

Luckily, you don’t have to have a movie star budget to help the Wildlife Waystation. You can pledge $10 to help feed the apes, birds, bears, big cats and other animals by texting WILDLIFE to 20222. For other ways to help Wildlife Waystation, visit their website by clicking here.