Wildlife park proposed for Wikieup area

Mohave County may be getting a second sanctuary for exotic wildlife.

A national nonprofit organization that has operated a wildlife park in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles for 25 years plans to open a wildlife sanctuary and zoological park in Wikieup by early next year.

The Wildlife Waystation plans to make the 90-acre park a home for exotic animals, but it may also house native animals as well as animals rescued from abuse, according to Martine Colette, executive director and founder.

She plans to open the sanctuary early next year on the east side of U.S.

93 3.25 miles north of Chicken Springs Road.

Keepers of the Wild, an unrelated entity, is building a sanctuary for exotic wildlife on 33.5 acres off the White Hills exit of U.S.

93, about 50 miles northwest of Kingman.

Wildlife Waystation chose Wikieup because the organization has offered educational programs in schools in northwest Arizona over the past 10 years, Colette said.

"The reason we bought the property is because it best suits our needs for establishing spacious enclosures for our animals and creating the type of zoological park we have long envisioned," she wrote a Wikieup merchant in a letter dated July 20.

Wildlife Waystation bought two pieces of land over the past few months, Colette said.

She said the organization's plans await approval from Mohave County and state agencies.

The county Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept.

10 recommended approval of a rezone from agricultural-residential to commercial-recreation for a portion of the site, according to county planner Kevin Davidson.

The county supervisors routinely approved the rezone Oct.

1.

Colette said she awaits approval from P&Z and the supervisors for the remainder of the property, and also needs to obtain permits from the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

Wildlife Waystation needs to obtain a site plan from the Planning and Zoning Department, Davidson said.

The plan covers details such as what kind of buildings and amenities will be developed on the property, including buildings, parking spaces and water hookups.

Colette said she does not know how long it will take to get all the permits, but plans to begin construction by later this year or early next year.

Colette said she is not familiar with the Keepers of the Wildlife sanctuary, but does not see it as competition.

"Northwest Arizona has not had the kind of wildlife facility in the years that I have been coming," she said.

Jonathan Kraft, founder and executive director of Keepers, said he spoke recently with Colette, adding he does not see her plans as a threat.

He hopes to open his sanctuary a year from now.

"I am not opposed to it, if she goes through the proper authorities and gets the proper permits," he said.

"There are a lot of animals that need rescuing.

Certainly, the ones that I am not able to take she is able to take."

Colette described the proposed sanctuary for Wikieup as a "conventional zoological park" that would provide a home for exotic animals such as chimpanzees, lions, elephants and tigers.

"We would be getting animals based on what needs we have," she said.

"We have a lot of animals here (in Los Angeles County).

Some of them will be transferred.

Other animals will come from zoos or other parks or facilities."

Her plans drew praise from Wikieup residents who see the proposed wildlife sanctuary as a boon to the economy.

"It is going to be a tourist attraction, and there will be a few good jobs available," said Danielle Stephens, a 41-year resident and member of the Big Sandy Valley Development Committee.