Monthly Archives: June 2017

Evolving as a Sanctuary

TCWR’s Behavioral Management Program

June 26, 2017

Summers in the Ozarks are full of fun, family, food and, of course, felines! And picnics are an archetype of this sweet summer fun. At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, we encourage our visitors to come out, bring their lunch, and spend some time watching the animals. With a picnic table and benches located close to our animal habitats, you can eat and learn more about all of the animal residents who call TCWR their sanctuary.

One of the most important elements of being their sanctuary is having the ability and the desire to constantly evolve. We can always do better and we will always do better. Many guests, specifically those who visited us in our earlier years, fondly remember our “feeding time” program that occurred at the end of the day. While for a long time it appeared to be a fun and educational way to feed the cats, it turned out that the constant stream of onlookers and indiscreet way of feeding the cats had erupted into an array of stress behaviors. We started to see notable food aggression and frequent pacing from the majority of our animal residents –even from those who had never been known to show any kind of aggression in the past. It was this realization that lead us to the decision to move away from the program and begin calm and discrete feeding groups at different times of the day. No longer doing the large “feeding time” program, we decided to then explore other programs that would be both beneficial to the cats and educational to the humans.

In January of 2016, we found the program — a form of animal husbandry known as the Behavioral Management Program. Behavioral Management Programs include the tasks performed to ensure the emotional and physical health of animals in captivity. Therefore, the purpose of this new program has been two-fold. First, this form of animal husbandry allows TCWR’s animal care team to encourage the animals to partake in enrichment activities –helping to prevent boredom and stress. And secondly, it allows for animal care staff to address health issues and perform routine medical check-ups without the use of sedatives.

For example, in the past, if one of the cats had surgery on their belly and needed their stitches checked, we would have to sedate them to get a closer look. Now, we can give verbal cues that instruct the cat to stand up against the habitat wall making the check-up wonderfully noninvasive –of course, only positive reinforcement is used, generally by way of delicious and delectable treats.

So far the program has had an encouraging effect on our animal residents and we’d love for visitors to share in this fun and educational opportunity this summer! Training with participating animals can currently be seen every day after the 4:00 pm Guided Habitat Tour in the Discovery Tour section of the Refuge.

So, if you are looking for something fun to do this summer, start by grabbing your lunch to go and join the evolution — learning more about what it takes to care for these amazing animals and soaking up some sunshine!

Sweet Treats and Cool Pools

Summer Fun At Turpentine Creek

June 21, 2017

Summer is here and the big cats and bears love cool treats! Watch our animal residents enjoy their own personal ‘popsicles’. Our bears get special fruitsicles and our cats get bloodsicles. Now, even though you might not like the idea of bloodsicles, our big cats love them! Watch the video and see just how much the cats enjoy keeping cool on the official first day of summer.

Building Enrichment

New Benches Needed

June 20, 2017

Chloe on an older style small wooden bench

The big cats, and bear, that call Turpentine Creek home spend a lot of their time gazing out over the beautiful expanse of the Ozarks a top of their benches. This high perch allows them to get out of the sun if they lay under it, or get a better view of their domain while sitting/standing/laying on top of it.

They not only use their benches to help them see better or get out of the sun, but they also use these benches as their own personal yoga mats and scratching posts. It is in their nature to mark their territory to let the world know that this is their spot. But the hard wear and tear on our benches, which means that we have to frequently replace boards and other pieces of our animal’s benches. Over time and after years of use we have to replace the entire thing.

Our team has worked hard to come up with a design that would reduce how often we have to replace the whole bench. A new metal frame will be more durable so that we are less frequently replacing the entire bench. We’ve kept the top part of the bench wood so that it doesn’t get hot in the sunshine and allows the cats to continue to stretch their paws and mark their territory. These boards are easily replaceable and can be changed out in a matter of minutes.

Each habitat contains a bench of various sizing, from a single level bench perfectly sized for one or two older cats to enjoy, all the way to a large three tiered bench perfect for energetic young cats looking for adventure and to play ‘king of the mountain’ with their habitat mates. Recently, we noticed that many of the benches were in need of replacing, so we set about the task to remove the old benches and build new ones.

Amber enjoying her new small bench

We currently need to fund the replacement of 23 small benches as soon as possible; two are already funded. The old benches were not offering adequate shade, and the structural integrity of the benches was not reliable. With your help, we can get all the benches replaced quickly and make sure our animals have plenty of shade and viewing spots ready for the start of summer.

Our small benches cost $600 each. We are asking our supporters to donate a bench for our animals. We are not allowing donors to request the bench be put in specific habitats because animals move and the animal you request might not be in need of a small bench at this time.

Please donate now and help us provide our animals with beautiful shady benches for the summer.

$600 – 1 small animal bench

13 Funded – 10 more needed


IFAW Collaboration

A Hands-On Learning Experience

IFAW Team Member At TCWR

June 7, 2017

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has recently had the pleasure of hosting Meredith Whitney, IFAW’s Wildlife Rescue Program Office, at our refuge. Meredith has spent the last two weeks participating in our internship program, getting her hands dirty and helping the team care for our animal residents.

IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare, is a non-profit organization that works with legitimate animal sanctuaries, like us, to rescue and protect animals around the world. Over the years IFAW has worked with Turpentine Creek during our major rescues, such as Mountainburg, and most recently gave us financial assistance us during the Colorado Project.

“Everyone at IFAW appreciates the opportunity to develop our relationship more, to work together. This was my first visit here, I was expecting a very high functioning professional organization, and I was not disappointed.”

Meredith’s job with IFAW is working to help with the captive big cat crisis in the United States, she spends most of her days in an office behind a desk, so this has been an interesting experience for her. She says it has been HOT and jokingly said that Emily, our Curator, has been making her do a lot of heavy lifting.

“Part of my job is responding to rescues and helping move animals; I need to keep my skills fresh and develop new skills, learn how all the sanctuaries that we work with work so that I’ll be more valuable to everybody and be able to assist when necessary,” Meredith stated.

IFAW works with many sanctuaries and could have chosen any one of them to send Meredith to for this experience. One of the reasons that they chose Turpentine Creek was because of our recent accomplishments with the Colorado Project. After heading up such a large collaborative project IFAW and Meredith saw this as an opportunity to learn more about how we navigated the joint effort and how we continue to work with the other facilities.

“Turpentine Creek does a lot of collaboration, especially on the Colorado Project that you pulled off so successfully, you also have fantastic safety standards here. You have an amazing staff that makes it easy for me to come in and work with you.”

Now that her two-week internship is completed Meredith will be returning to her normal job, but perhaps in the future will get the chance to visit other sanctuaries to get a little more hands-on experience. Although her ‘internship’ was brief, she did get the chance to see and do what we do. We put Meredith through her paces, and she came through the experience with a few more calluses and some wonderful memories

“During morning checks, part of the job is to get our eyes on every animal, look them over from head to toe, and make sure that they are behaving correctly. I think that is my favorite part of this experience. It gives you an excuse just to stand there and stare at every animal, for just a few seconds, but really, that is why we all do this, so that we can get the chance to see these magnificent creatures and be in awe.”

We anticipate the next opportunity to work with IFAW and continue to rescue big cats and other exotic animals in need.



On The Move

Moving Big Cats

June 6, 2017

Our big cats are on the move! Ok, only a few of them are, but there are some location changes happening at Turpentine Creek. We move animals for various reasons from old age, to allowing animals extra space, moving animals can be difficult but it is always done with the animal’s best interest in mind. Changing habitats can be a very enriching experience for the animals. New sights, neighbors, and smells give our animals a whole new experience in life.

Since we are located in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, not all of our property is flat land. As our animals age, it can get more difficult for them to navigate the inclines and declines of our landscape. Luckily, we have some land that is more level and easier for our older animals to enjoy. Rescue Ridge may have started out as a way to quickly rescue dozens of animals in need, but it has quickly found a secondary use, a place for our older animals to go so they can rest their weary bones and enjoy the remainder of their lives in the peace and tranquility of the Ozarks.

Recently, we needed to move Styx and Bombay down to Rescue Ridge. These two senior cats were in need of some flat, level land to enjoy. With their move to Rescue Ridge, it opened up space so that we could move Thurston and Amber to their own habitat. Before the move, they were alternating days in a habitat with Donner and Roman, white tiger brothers who also came to us from Colorado.

Because of this shift, all six cats (Styx, Bombay, Amber, Thurston, Donner, and Roman) spend every single day out in their new habitats. We have also moved a few other animals over the last few weeks. These moves were not because of elderly animals, but to make it so that our animals could be out in habitats more often.

Tsavo, one of our most vocal and popular lions, was recently moved to a habitat on the tour loop. We decided to move Tsavo to his new habitat so that Tsavo, and his tiger trio neighbors Chuff, Abigail, and Athena could spend every day out in a spacious habitat.

Change can be a good thing, simple moves might mean visiting a different part of the refuge to see your favorite cat (or bear) but for the animal, it is the best thing we could possibly do. So, stop in soon to see your favorite animals and watch them enjoy their new homes.