Twenty-seven full-grown African lions and crossbred "ligers" and cubs, some of them sick or deformed, arrived at the Wildlife Waystation Monday night following their rescue from a rundown, dirty compound in Idaho.
Towing horse trailers and metal cages, a caravan of trucks led by Waystation founder Martine Colette brought the cats to her 160-acre hillside preserve in Angeles National Forest, north of Los Angeles.Construction crews hammered two-by-fours and plywood boards, which will be attached to chain-link fencing, for the animals' temporary quarters at their new home.
The cats had been kept at Ligertown Game Farm just outside Lava Hot Springs in southeastern Idaho. Three of the cats are ligers, a female cross between a lion and a tiger. They look like lions with muted tiger stripes on their tawny fur.
Last Wednesday, authorities in Idaho had to kill 18 lions after several escaped the ramshackle compound and others became aggressive when Ligertown operators Robert Fieber and Dotti Martin tried to quell the disturbance.
Colette, who traveled to Lava Hot Springs with nine other Waystation staffers, said the Idaho enclosure was built from discarded packing crates, scrap lumber, tin, wooden pallets and chicken wire.
"It was a shantytown," Colette said. "We were walking ankle-deep in old bones, decaying food and feces," she added. "It was pitiful for the animals.
"I think the place should be burned to the ground in the interest of public health," Colette said.
The Wildlife Waystation delegation spent the weekend tranquilizing and caging the exotic animals - among them five lion cubs - for the trip to California.
The cats will be quarantined at Wildlife Waystation until their health is determined.
Wildlife Waystation, founded in 1976, is a nonprofit haven that rescues and rehabilitates native and exotic animals and, when possible, returns them to the wild.
Among the animals' health problems were ingrown claws and deformities in some of their feet, which Colette attributed to inbreeding. One lioness, and possibly a second, is pregnant, she said.
Others need dental work. "We have one lion who we believe has major kidney problems," Colette added.