Tonight I had the privilege of attending a celebratory dinner for Big N’s company at the Wildlife Waystation in the mountains of the Angeles National Forrest. What a magical evening it was.
The Waystation takes in exotic animals of all kinds who no longer have homes. Examples include a grizzly bear who retired from a long career in show business, to tigers whose owners thought it would be cool to have a tiger until it grew up and mauled them, to homeless chimpanzees who found their way to the Waystation after the laboratory that performed experiments on them for years closed down. Started by Martine Collette in 1976, who still runs the joint and regales her guests with crazy stories while pouring exotic libations, the Waystation is currently home to over 400 animals and runs solely on private donations and volunteer labor.
We started the evening with a tour of the more people friendly animals (and wouldn’t you know it, I only had my crappy iphone with me, forgive the pics). Meet Montana, the elderly white tiger with arthritis, and Sheba, a 23 year old beauty who came right up to me and met my stare with her kind blue eyes. We met lions, a grizzly bear, a brown bear, several rowdy Chimpanzees with wicked senses of humor, and even a Liger! We saw spider monkeys climbing their cages, capuchins chowing down on bananas, wolves playing together in their pack, heard a jet black panther purring (a deep guttural sound), and listened while the lions talked to each other at a volume that could be heard for miles (see video below). What’s amazing about this place is the animals come right up to you, not more than three feet from you (the minimum safe distance the Waystation likes to enforce, except for the chimps, which require a 20 foot gap to ensure safety from their playful but incredibly accurate water spitting antics).
After our tour we entered a lovely tented area and dined together with the sounds of exotic birds chirping in the distance and buzzing our tent. For dinner the Waystation served chicken, salmon, and roast beast (beer marinated tri tip), along with garden fresh vegetables, and moist chocolate cake for dessert, all made in Martine’s 1938 cottage on the 160 acre property.
The Waystation is currently closed to the public (and only hosts special events), but hopes to reopen within the year once they can afford a few Code updates. Our dinner helped raise needed funds that allow the Waystation to take in any exotic animal in need of love and care. If you’re looking to spread the wealth, consider adding the Waystation to your list of worthy causes. You can even sponsor your own animal.