State Completes Relocation of Animals from Wildlife Waystation

'WILDLIFE CROSSING' road sign in Mount Beauty, Victoria, Australia

Photo: Getty Images

SYLMAR (CNS) - More than three years after the facility closed, state officials announced Wednesday they have completed the relocation of all animals that were housed at the 160-acre Wildlife Waystation sanctuary in the Angeles National Forest near Sylmar.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the final two animals from the sanctuary were a pair of chimpanzees who were moved earlier this month to Chimp Haven near Shreveport, Louisiana. Eight other chimps from the sanctuary were previously moved to the same facility.

Nearly 500 animals were housed at the Wildlife Waystation when the facility suddenly closed in August 2019. The sanctuary's board of directors opted to surrender its operating permit following insurmountable costs that arose due to damage caused by the 2017 Creek Fire and flooding in early 2019.

CDFW officials oversaw efforts to relocate the animals, including 42 chimps.

"It was actually relatively easy to find homes for lions, tigers, bears, jaguars, all sorts of primates, birds and reptiles," CDFW Regional Manager Ed Pert said in a statement. "Chimpanzees are a difficult species to rehome. After it became illegal to do medical research on chimpanzees in 2015, U.S research facilities have been closing down or rehoming them. There hasn't been enough space at good facilities to take them all in."

State officials noted that most of the chimps that were at the Wildlife Waystation came from a biomedical lab in New York that closed in the 1990s. In addition to the Louisiana facility, Waystation chimps were also moved to facilities in Washington, Florida and Texas, according to CDFW.

State officials credited fundraising efforts by the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance for helping to secure new homes for the animals.

Wildlife Waystation, founded by animal advocate Martine Colette, began operating in 1976, taking in abandoned and abused animals from around the world. The facility served as a sanctuary for animals including tigers, lions and chimpanzees. Operators said the Waystation assisted more than 77,000 animals during its existence, including wolves, coyotes, camels, hyenas, reptiles and leopards.

Colette died in January at age 79.

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