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Wildlife Waystation Founder Martine Colette Dies At 79

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Martine Colette, the founder of the now-closed Wildlife Waystation, died Sunday. She was 79.

Colette, who had been suffering from lung cancer, died at her home in Lake Havasu in Arizona, according to her publicist.

Wildlife WayStation's Safari Brunch - Inside
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 14: Founder and director of the Wildlife Waystation Martine Collette strokes the chin of Mungar a Bengal tiger during the 12th Annual Safari Brunch, a fundraiser for the Wildlife Waystation held at the Playboy Mansion on October 14, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for the Wildlife WayStation)

Colette founded the 160-acre animal sanctuary in 1976, rescuing and housing thousands of wild animals during the four decades the facility was under her direction. The Wildlife Waystation closed in 2019, after being battered by a number of natural disasters that included wildfires and severe flooding.

Born to a Belgian diplomat and his wife, Colette developed a love for wild animals while traveling with her father in Africa. She moved to Hollywood in 1965 and built a successful costume design business, which allowed her to begin her animal rescue efforts. Over the years, Colette organized and led a caravan to rescue 27 big, maltreated cats from the Ligertown Game Farm in Idaho and was the first to accept chimpanzees from biomedical research in 1995.

Under Colette's direction, the Wildlife Waystation benefited from its proximity to Hollywood and was on the receiving end of star-studded fundraisers such as the Safari Brunch often held at the Playboy Mansion. Over the years, she was recognized by city and state officials for her work in rescuing wild animals.

Colette was surrounded by friends at her passing, Brown said. A memorial is being planned for the spring, and in lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted at in her memory to provide for the two hybrid wolf-dogs and 16 chimpanzees who are still waiting at the facility to be rehomed.

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