SYLMAR, CALIFORNIAThe scene behind the chain-link gate brings to mind a derelict frontier town—but instead of nature reclaiming a sheriff’s office and saloon, weeds and vines are overtaking hundreds of rusting cages in an abandoned wildlife sanctuary. An eerie silence hangs over grounds that had once reverberated with the roaring of African lions and the squawking of exotic birds.
“DANGER,” reads a sign on an empty enclosure. “WILD ANIMALS BITE FINGERS.” A half-completed cleaning checklist is clipped next to the cage door, as if the animals’ keepers will be back at any moment.
They won’t be. Wildlife Waystation—a 160-acre, privately owned animal sanctuary in Sylmar, California, that opened in 1976—folded in August 2019, plagued by longstanding financial troubles, among other problems.