32 chimps still need homes
SYLMAR, California––32 chimpanzees are the last residents of the former Wildlife Waystation sanctuary in Little Tujunga Canyon, east of Glendale and Los Angeles.
A year after Wildlife Waystation closed, on August 13, 2019, by order of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, finding the funds to rehome the 32 chimps is the leading concern of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA).
Several existing primate sanctuaries are willing to accept the chimps, ANIMALS 24-7 has been informed. The chimps are ideally to be parceled out in the six intact living groups to which they belonged at Wildlife Waystation. Each sanctuary, however, will need funding to build expanded quarters to house a chimp living group, and to ensure the feeding and care of the chimps.
Chimps need more than just bus fare
Then there is the anticipated cost of moving the chimps. Moving chimps safely takes a lot more than a bus ticket each, even if chimps can carry their own luggage.
Explains the NAPSA web site, “Wildlife Waystation is no longer a functioning entity and does not have the resources to provide lifetime care to chimpanzees. The sanctuary location is problematic, lacking a water source and in an area with high risk of wildfires.
“The chimpanzees’ care has been overseen and funded by California Department of Fish & Wildlife since August 2019, who took over operations due to significant concerns about the ability of the Waystation to care for the animals,” but the California Department of Fish & Wildlife cannot continue to care for the chimps much longer, even if the Waystation property is not soon sold, after years on the market, and even if more wildfires and flooding do not further damage the already badly damaged access road.
Waystation property for sale
How soon the 160-acre Wildlife Waystation property will be sold, including founder Martine Colette’s luxurious house, is anyone’s guess.
Colette, 81, opened Wildlife Waystation in 1976, arguably the first sanctuary in the U.S. for cast-off and/or confiscated exotic animals formerly kept as pets or used in entertainment, and ran it for 43 years amid almost constant controversy and conflict with regulatory agencies.
“We had it for sale in 2005 for $2.5 million; it is now listed for $2.2 million, 15 years later,” realtor Champ Davenport on July 29, 2020 told John Gregory of ABC 7 television in Los Angeles.
“We have had people who were interested,” Davenport said. “We’ve had a rock star interested in the property as a getaway place, maybe a recording studio; we’ve had film companies who were interested in using it as a back lot, so to speak.”
Chimps cannot stay where they are
But even if a buyer happened to be willing to keep the chimpanzees where they are, the NAPSA web site makes clear that this is not an option, even if, through some miracle, the various agencies that would have to issue permits could be persuaded to allow animal care facilities to again operate on a site not particularly well-suited even to grazing horses.
The Wildlife Waystation site was, and is, a major inholder within the Angeles National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service priority for the area is accommodating free-roaming native wildlife.
NAPSA makes a particular point of debunking any belief that the chimps could be kept in their present facilities at the Wildlife Waystation site for less money than the cost of moving them.
$20,000 per year per chimp
“If a private individual or nonprofit organization stepped in,” says NAPSA, “it would take many millions of dollars to build equivalent habitats for the chimpanzees onsite to those at sanctuaries where they would be rehomed. Even with millions for building, the fire risk and other infrastructure problems would still exist and permitting would not be guaranteed.
“On top of the costs for bringing their home up to proper standards, it would cost at least $20,000 per year per chimpanzee for their care, with most of the chimpanzees living for decades longer,” and no remaining Wildlife Waystation fundraising infrastructure.
Among the first chimps moved were Honey B, Willy B, and Mave, now living at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum, Washington.
“We attempted to integrate the new three with our original group of seven,” Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest admits. “Despite some bonds beginning to form, the integration resulted in some serious fighting, and was ultimately unsuccessful,” necessitating expansion of the existing facilities.
Founded in 2008, Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest hopes to be able to expand enough to accommodate more of the former Wildlife Waystation chimps in 2021.
The Regenstein Center for African Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago also accepted two chimps from Wildlife Waystation: Eli and Susie.
Concludes NAPSA, “The Chimps in Need campaign,” directed by NAPSA, “has already successfully rehomed nine chimpanzees from the Wildlife Waystation to new facilities, where the individuals are thriving.”
Remaining at Wildlife Waystation, among other chimpanzees, are Jeff, 44, who arrived in 1985 and was among the first chimps to be housed there; Charlie Chuckles, a castrated male more than 50 years old, residing at the Waystation since 1994; Charlie Chuckles’ friend Magic, the youngest Waystations chimp at age 15; Ernesta, mother of Magic; the siblings Lucky and Cy;
and Josh, Sabina, December, and Mystery, who were among the 32-chimp colony that Wildlife Waystation accepted from the former Laboratory for Experimental Medicine & Surgery in Primates when it was closed and sold by New York University in 1996.
“It’s going to be a long process”
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife in an August 13, 2019 prepared statement informed media that two days earlier it had been “notified by the Wildlife Waystation that their board of directors had voted to surrender the facility’s CDFW permit voluntarily and to close the facility.
Wardens were “on site,” the California Department of Fish & Wildlife said, “actively ensuring that daily operations remain smooth at the facility, and working with animal welfare organizations to place the animals into other facilities.”
Half moved in three months
“Some animals will be moving out as early as tomorrow,” California Department of Fish & Wildlife spokesperson Jordan Traverso told Louis Sahugan of the Los Angeles Times, “but it’s going to be a long process,” Sahugan predicted, “because there are so many, and some of them are old and in primary care.”
A little over three months later, the investment firm Seventh Generation Advisors, handling fundraising for the animal relocations, announced that, “With the aid of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, nearly half of the 500 animals at the Waystation have found homes at other sanctuaries, including grizzly bears, black bears, African lions, tigers, bison, hyenas, primates, exotic small cats, birds, reptiles, and horses.
“The California Department of Fish & Wildlife and Los Angeles County, in coordination with remaining Wildlife Waystation staff and board members, are collaborating to rehome the animals and ensure that they are being properly cared for in the interim,” Seventh Generation Advisors said.
“However,” Seventh Generation Advisors mentioned “there are particular challenges for about five dozen magnificent animals,” including the chimpanzees and some large carnivores, “who require very specific handling. In some cases, specialized sanctuaries have agreed to take the animals, but will need time to build additional enclosures. The animals may remain at the Waystation for many months until those facilities are ready.”
Among the potentially hard-to-accommodate Wildlife Waystation animals who have been placed elsewhere, the Patas monkey Babie went to the Oklahoma Primate Sanctuary, in Newcastle, Oklahoma.
Big Cat Rescue, of Tampa, Florida, took in the bobcats Shiloh, Philmo, and Tom Tom, plus the savannah cat Mouser.
WildCat Ridge, of Scotts Mills, Oregon, accepted the lionesses Chobe and Kariba, and the jungle cat hybrid Tut,
Mia, a 16-year-old leopard, went to In-Synch Exotics Wildlife Rescue & Educational Center, of Wylie, Texas, operating since 2000.
The Performing Animal Welfare Society, of San Andreas, California, took in the tigers Czar, Mungar, and Tessa.
The Exotic Feline Rescue Center, in Center Point, Indiana, accepted 15 big cats in all, among them the tigers Bhutan, Ganjee, Mira, and Tyson, the pumas Colli, Kali, Kaya, and Wichita, and the African lions Bolero, Kalahari, Mombasa, and Rafiki, along with two more tigers and an African lion whose names have apparently not been listed.
Three wolf hybrids were relocated to Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana.
Ten bears and three hyenas were among 16 animals accepted by the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.
The Phoenix Herpetologist Sanctuary, in Phoenix, Arizona, took in 84 animals from Wildlife Waystation, including seven alligators, a spur-thighed tortoise, a Burmese python, an iguana, a Mexican red-tailed boa, a monitor lizard, at least one rattlesnake, and numerous smaller turtles, snakes and lizards.
Three little pigs
Not all of the animal relocations have been permanent.
Four parrots delivered from Wildlife Waystation to the Oakland Zoo in April 2020 were reportedly only to stay there for a 30-day quarantine, before being relayed to another destination then not determined.
Three pigs from Wildlife Waystation had been shuttled among at least three locations by mid-February 2020, postings to the Wildlife Waystation Alumni group on Facebook indicate.
Fire & flood finished the Waystation
Already struggling for nearly 20 years with a backlog of repair and maintenance issues, Wildlife Waystation “was extensively damaged in the 2017 Creek Fire and again in flooding in early 2019,” such that “Wildlife Waystation leadership is unable to repair the facility to current standards,” the California Department of Fish & Wildlife said when closing the sanctuary.
The January 2019 flooding, in part resulting from the loss of Angeles National Forest vegetation in frequent wildfires during the preceding two decades, apparently used the last of the Wildlife Waystation’s many more than nine lives.
The last of many colorful episodes involving the Waystation––and one of the most dangerous––came in early March 2019, when a small herd of bison escaped and had to be walked two miles back to what remained of the sanctuary, Martine Colette recounted in one of her last fundraising videos posted to YouTube.