LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last of hundreds of abandoned, orphaned or abused animals that were taken in by Southern California's once-prominent Wildlife Waystation have been relocated, authorities said Wednesday.
The move of two chimpanzees to Chimp Haven in Louisiana early this month completed a long effort to find new accredited homes for the nearly 500 animals that lived at the facility when financial difficulties forced it to shut down in 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
The Wildlife Waystation was founded in the 1970s by the late Martine Colette, who came to Hollywood in 1965 and built a costume design business, but realized there was a significant need for a sanctuary to shelter discarded exotic animals.
The facility in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles would eventually take in thousands of animals over the years. Wildfires threatened at times, forcing evacuations of the animals.
As the agency that regulates sanctuaries, the Fish and Wildlife Department had to take over when it suddenly closed.
Fish and Wildlife regional manager Ed Pert said in a statement that it was relatively easy to find homes for such animals as lions, tigers, bears, birds and reptiles, but chimps were difficult.
“After it became illegal to do medical research on chimpanzees in 2015, U.S research facilities have been closing down or rehoming them,” he said. "There hasn’t been enough space at good facilities to take them all in.“
Colette, who retired in 2019, died of cancer in January. She was 79.