WILD TIME FOR THE WAYSTATION
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1997:
ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST,
Calif.––The California Fish and Game Commission
on June 12 reportedly put off until August a decision
on a Department of Fish and Game request that
it should impose a moratorium on the acceptance of
animals by the Wildlife Waystation sanctuary until
it meets DFG requirements.
DFG director Jacqueline E. Schafer told
the commission on May 16 that the DFG has
refused to renew the Wildlife Waystation permits to
exhibit and keep “detrimental species,” which
expired on February 15, because “the Waystation
continues to possess unpermitted animals, allows
breeding, and houses animals in substandard cages.
Twenty-six unauthorized wild animal births have
taken place at the Waystation since June 1994,”
Schafer charged. She further stated that 23 cages,
mostly housing big cats or bears, have been officially
out of compliance with state regulation since
May 16, 1995.
“We are very concerned that continued
importation, possession, and breeding of wild animals
at the Waystation places the public and animals
in jeopardy,” Schafer said. “We are also
extremely concerned that the DFG and Commission
could be held negligent should an animal escape
and/or injure someone. We urge the Commission
to take strong action.”
But Wildlife Waystation had already
adopted a moratorium on accepting more animals,
as ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in June, after a
surveying error put part of a new primate facility
outside the Waystation property, on land belonging
to the Angeles National Forest. This required
extensive redesign and rebuilding, sending costs as
much as $250,000 over the $500,000 budget.
There were also two sides to the rest of
Schafer’s story, Wildlife Waystation founder
Martine Colette told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“We have never imported any animal
contrary to the instructions of the DFG or Fish and
Game Commission,” Colette said. “As to breeding,
we are holding for the state of Idaho 35 lions
and tigers,” seized in the 1995 closure of
Ligertown, a “liger” breeding compound owned by
Robert and Dotti Martin, after 19 bit cats escaped
and were shot. Aspects of the case are still in litigation.
“We are not their legal owners,” Colette
continued. “Two lion cubs were born within a few
days of arrival, and seven were born in the following
months. It is not the policy of the Waystation
to breed any animals unless we are participating in
a Species Survival Plan project [with an American
Zoo Association-accredited facility, which has a
specific destination prearranged for the offspring].
As soon as the animals arrived, we requested permission
from the Idaho courts and the state of Idaho
to allow us to temporarily alter ‘evidence’ by
putting contraceptive implants into the females or
vasectomizing the males. The wheels wound very
slowly, and six to seven months after our request,
we finally got permission, after which all unwanted
reproduction was stopped.”
There was one exception: “It appears one
vasectomy failed because one cub was born after a
vasectomy was performed,” Colette noted.
“As to the balance of the births,” Colette
explained further, “we had two coyotes who have
been in residence here for three years, with records
indicating the male coyote was vasectomized––but
after three years of cohabiting, they produced a litter.
We are not sure how or why this vasectomy
reversed itself, but we have since spayed the
female and castrated the male.”
An alternate scenario is that the vasectomy
was fine, but a Houdini-like wild coyote got in
and out of the pen somehow without human notice.
There were also five stillborn bear cubs
produced among a group of three supposedly sterile
bears who had lived together at Wildlife
Waystation for 16 years without previous reproduction.
Both males were re-vasectomized. A pair of
Axis deer, separated during the breeding season,
bred out of season, while the buck’s antlers “were
full of blood supply and in complete velvet,”
which bucks normally shed before mating. A starving
African lion from Kentucky arrived in late
pregnancy, and was too weak to subject to surgery.
Several capuchin monkeys were revasectomized
after a baby was born in their colony, several years
after the group arrived.
“Our veterinary staff has had a lot of
experience performing vasectomies,” Colette said,
“but the procedure is not always 100% foolproof.
If you remove the nine births among the Idaho
lions, that leaves 15 births. We have served 65,000
animals. The percentage of births here is miniscule
compared to the number of animals we care for,”
and indeed ANIMAL PEOPLE found that the
record of Wildlife Waystation in preventing
unplanned exotic animal births compares well to
that of major zoos.
“Regarding caging,” Colette finished,
“we are requesting some variances of design. The
Waystation has a number of pens in which the
footage is much larger than the regulations require,
but without roofs. The DFG regulations have no
provision for exceptions, ergo we go to the
Commission. We also have a few very old enclosures
that were up to former DFG regulations,” she
acknowledged, “but do not meet current standards.
We are in the process of rebuilding those now. We
anticipate no problems and believe an amicable
solution is imminent.”
Colette reiterated an often-made invitation
to ANIMAL PEOPLE to visit any time. She
didn’t sound worried about what we might see.