How did Martine Colette die? Founder of Betty White-funded wildlife sanctuary dies at 79
"Soon, I'll be walking with tigers," Colette said before passing away surrounded by friends
Martine Colette died of lung cancer on Sunday, January 23, at the age of 79. Colette saw wildlife when traveling through Africa with her father, a Belgian diplomat. She had seen animals around the world being hunted and exploited. She rescued her first animal after relocating to Hollywood in the mid-1960s, and from then, she worked to develop a program for rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned and injured animals. Betty White, Ryan Cannon, William Shatner, Dennis Hopper, and Stefanie Powers were among the many celebrities that supported the Wildlife Waystation animal sanctuary. Carol Asvestas of the American Sanctuary Association labeled Wildlife Waystation "the mother of all sanctuaries".
The Wildlife Waystation was established in 1965, just outside of Los Angeles. Colette founded the sanctuary and administered it successfully for nearly four decades. Before it closed in August 2019, more than 77,000 animals and 200 different species were rescued at the sanctuary. Her sanctuary had earned an international reputation for assisting animals from Ireland, New Zealand, and other places from around the world. She organized and led a convoy to assist in the rescue of 27 big cats from Idaho's Ligertown Game Farm, and she was the first to adopt chimps from biomedical research.
Colette was declared a designated animal expert for Los Angeles and was recognized for her years of service by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California State Assembly. "Soon, I'll be walking with tigers," she had said before she passed away surrounded by friends.
Wildlife Waystation had made a post about Colette and its caption read, "It is with the heaviest of hearts Wildlife Waystation announces the passing of our beloved founder, Martine Colette." It ended as, "She stood her ground and fought to protect her legacy through multiple fires, severe floods, and numerous bureaucratic challenges. One of her final comments before she passed, Colette said 'Soon, I’ll be walking with tigers.' Plans are underway for a memorial later this Spring. Details to be announced."
The Wildlife Waystation closed down in August 2019 but Colette was still rescuing animals until the time of her death. However, the closure of the facility, as well as Colette's death, has had an influence on the animals within the refuge. There are animals in need of homes, including two hybrid wolf-dogs and 16 chimps, and California Fish & Wildlife is doing everything they can to aid these sweet creatures.