Economy has wildlife rescue on endangered list

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“When pot-bellied pigs were in demand, we had 146 come in at one time. There were a lot of ostriches when they were billed as the next white meat,” she said.

For 35 years, Colette has had her hand out, gathering donations for her ever-changing stable of creatures. Hollywood has often rallied to her cause.

Betty White has been a supporter from the beginning. In 2001, Hollywood elite, including Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe, and Johnny Depp put together a CD called “Hollywood Goes Wild” to try and raise money for the WayStation. Sharon Stone made a YouTube plea for donations in 2009.

Colette’s plea has never been as urgent as last week’s.

She’s had to lay off about a third of her staff, which has ranged from 42 to 50 people, and she wonders how she’ll cover the $142,000 it costs a month to feed and care for the animals.

Problems extend to complying with environmental and permit regulations.

A decade ago, the WayStation had more than 1,100 permanent residents and 5,000 animals dropping in each year. But state officials banned public tours and barred the refuge from accepting new animals after waste was found in a stream and chimpanzees had contagious diseases.

A few years later, Los Angeles County refused to reissue its permit until roads were repaved, sewers replaced and electrical wiring upgraded.

The sanctuary acknowledged the environmental violations and started working on the expensive upgrades, tapping out its emergency fund.

Colette, who had hoped to retire, is open to a merger or partnership that would make money without exploiting the animals.

Someone suggested a wedding chapel on the picturesque grounds. Colette mused about a mountaintop restaurant.

“Everybody talks about how fabulous it is to come out here and listen to the lions roaring and the chimpanzees and tigers calling.”

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Online:

Wildlife WayStation, http://www.wildlifewaystation.org

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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