Silvio Celebrates 30 Years

Silvio Santinelli Celebrates 30 Years


Silvio Santinelli, Wildlife Waystation's Compound Manager and Veterinarian, has worked at Wildlife Waystation longer than any other employee, having clocked in 30 years as of December of 2017.

Here's one of his most memorable stories:

Silvio remembers his biggest adventure working for Wildlife Waystation when he joined the team that rescued lions, tigers and ligers from a dilapidated encampment in Idaho in the mid-90's.

"It was really hard to imagine that animals could live in such poor conditions. We worked through day and night to bring the cats to safety and care for them here," said Sylvio.

Silvio remembers that on Friday, September 22, 1995, four trucks left the Waystation, each pulling a trailer and equipped with cages and equipment needed to safely transport an unknown number of large felines. The escape of several lions and ligers from an Idaho compound the previous Wednesday had made national news after eighteen of the free-roaming animals were destroyed by authorities. The big cats had mauled the owners of the Ligertown Game Farm near Lava Hot Springs, some 28-miles southeast of Pocatello. Although the owners survived the attack they did not reveal how many animals they had been keeping in their facility.



According to TV reports, fifty Sheriff’s Deputies and SWAT sniper teams “terminated” the escaped lions when they threatened the officers and the general safety of the area. No supplies or personnel were available to dart the animals with tranquilizers in this semi-rural region. Video coverage showed a ramshackle facility with enclosures constructed of chicken wire and plywood.

After USDA officials from Sacramento contacted Wildlife Waystation on Thursday, the Waystation personnel went on alert as vehicles and other equipment were put into readiness for immediate departure - if the call for aid should come. The call came on Friday morning and within two hours, eight Waystation staff including Veterinarian Silvio Santinelli, were on their way to Idaho. 

By Saturday, after the rescuers reached Ligertown, it was determined that twenty-four lions, one of which was only six days old, and three ligers would be making the trip to California. An additional truck was dispatched to Idaho to join the other four. On Sunday morning, a call went out to volunteers asking for help in preparing for the animals expected arrival, some time Monday after an all-night journey.


A large group of hardworking volunteers and staff began to clear out an area large enough to build the substantial enclosures needed for the big cats. Volunteers heeded the call and started construction the following day. They were standing by when masses of media people converged on the site to record the homecoming of these abused animals.

The exotic cats rescued from the squalid Idaho game farm were finally safe. The transfer cages were unloaded from the trucks and trailers amid the bright lights of TV cameras as construction continued, long into the night. The seven-day old bottle-fed female received ’round-the-clock care, while four, older cubs were placed in a ready enclosure for careful observation. The adult lions were introduced to their new enclosures a few days later. Though indiscriminate in-breeding and deplorable conditions had left the animals with some deformities and health problems, all believed that with proper diet and care, they should emerge OK from their ordeal.




Thanks to Silvio, Martine Colette, Wildlife Waystation's Founder, and a large group of dedicated volunteers, all of these animals lived out their lives enjoying the care they deserved.















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There are opportunities to attend or book a private gathering in the sanctuary garden of our founder, Martine Colette. For detailed information, please call (818) 899-5201