Monthly Archives: September 2017

Big Cats Live At TCWR

Weekly Live Video Streaming

September 26, 2017

Recently, many social media sites have begun offering live streaming video. This feature allows supporters a new way to interact with Turpentine Creek, other nonprofits, and businesses, helping social media users to get to know the groups that they choose to support. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been working hard for a little over a year to find a way to best utilize this new social media feature so that we could offer this interactive experience to our supporters.

Turpentine Creek team members have worked hard to find a way to provide quality live video to our supporters while staying within our nonprofit budget. We had to update our internet quality, find cameras, and find a streaming system that would do what we need. Then we had to test the equipment and find out exactly the best way to use it. It has been a process but one that we believe will pay off in the end by allowing our supporters better access to our team and a richer experience with our animals.

We are excited to announce that after over a year of research and hard work we have begun producing a weekly live video show, Big Cat Live at TCWR. Each week on Tuesdays, at 10 am CST, we will be going live on our Facebook and Youtube pages. We invite all of our supporters to join us on one of the two platforms, ask questions and enjoy the approximately15-minute ‘show’ that features our refuge, animals, and team members.

Each episode will be made up of three segments; Featured Animal, Team Spotlight, and keeper talk. Ivy Doss, an animal care team member, will be hosting the show. On occasion, we might have extras like vet visits, special guests, and other fun activities to make the show fun for everyone.

Make sure you subscribe to get notifications of live episodes on Facebook and/or Youtube. Watch previous episodes below or on our Youtube page. Get caught up and enjoy all the fun!

This is just the first step into our adventure into live video production. We hope to produce a variety of live shows and eventually even offer continuously streaming live video of animals that can be watched anytime throughout the day. Stay tuned and keep an eye on our live video progress over the next few weeks and months.

Animal Transportation

Safely Moving Dangerous Animals

September 13, 2017

With fires on the west coast, flooding in Texas and Florida, and earthquakes in Mexico, transporting animals to another location might become necessary at some facilities. Typically, most accredited zoos and sanctuaries do not move their animals unless necessary. Transporting animals can be very stressful for the animal and dangerous for the people moving them. When not done with the utmost care there is a risk of an animal escaping or getting injured.

If not done carefully, there is a risk of an animal escaping. That is exactly what happened on September 6, 2017, in Atlanta Georgia. Feld Entertainment, the company that owns Ringling Brothers, was transporting 15 big cats from Florida to Tenessee. The big cats, which are privately owned, were being transported to Tennessee so that they could be shipped to Germany to perform in a circus there since Ringling Brothers no longer use big cats in their shows. Reportedly, a female tiger, named Suzy, escaped sometime while the transport vehicle was stopped at a truck stop in Georgia during the night. The drivers did not know that Suzy had escaped until after they arrived at their destination and heard that there was a tiger killed in Georgia earlier that day.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge no longer not takes animals off of property unless it is for a rescue or an emergency. In the past, we had to transport cats for veterinary care, but since we have completed our veterinary clinic on site, we no longer have to transport animals, which is safer and less stressful. There is always the risk that a natural disaster could make it necessary for our facility or other facilities to relocate animals and we all must be prepared for this possibility.

Transporting animals must be done as carefully and safely as possible. The team at Turpentine Creek works hard to make sure any time animals are moved that the process is done with the best interest of the animal in mind. We take every precaution to prevent any chance of escape or release of the animals in our care during transport. We utilize padlocks, tie wire and tow straps to secure caging, and video cameras to allow us to make sure our animals are safe and secure at all points during transportation. Our animals are checked on at every stop and given water. We check locks every time we stop and before we get back on the road. We also do our best to make the trip as comfortable as possible for the animals.

With so many animals at risk with all the current natural disasters occurring, Turpentine Creek has prepared our transport cages and rescue gear just in case we are called upon to assist with the relocation of any exotic animals put in danger by floods, fires, or earth quakes. We have double checked the integrity of our transport roll cages, checked our rescue supplies, and even ran a ‘rescue drill’ the other day to make sure we were ready for any call that might come in.

Turpentine Creek is always willing to help any big cat or rescue facilities in need due to a natural disaster.

Declawing and Defanging

The Painful Lives of “Safe” Big Cats

September 5, 2017

An X-Ray of a declawed cougar’s paw. The joints in their toes fused into a curled position due to arthritis. They also developed a bone growth on their ‘wrist’ from shifting their weight and walking on their wrists instead of their toes.

No big cat is ever safe, even if they have been declawed and defanged. Declawing and defanging are two painful attempts at making a wild animal safe enough to be handled by humans, but nothing can make a dangerous wild animal safe enough to be a pet.

The declawing process removes the last bone at the knuckle on each toe. Cats walk with most of their weight on their toes when you remove the toe it forces them to shift their weight further back on bones and muscles not naturally made for this purpose.

In house cats, declawing increases the likelihood of poor behaviors like not using the litter box correctly, spraying, biting, aggression and later in life arthritis. Big cats have similar behavior problems, but they are garunteed to get arthritist since they are larger and put more weight on their feet.

Another painful risk with declawing is that if they don’t get every little bit of the bone, the claw will attempt to grow back, but not like a normal claw. These claw cunks are deformed and cannot exit the paw. This causes pain and discomfort for the animals. Over all it is a very painful life for any cat, big or small, that is declawed.

Thurston was part of a magic show. The magician declawed and defanged him so that he was ‘safer’ around the public. He will need dental work.

Defanging is another painful process done to many wild animals to try to make them ‘safer.’ Defanging is when the canine teeth are removed. Although big cats chew their food with their back teeth, they still need their front teeth to grip the meat so that they can chew it properly.

Defanging can be done one of two ways, either the teeth could be ground down, leaving the nerves exposed and pockets for rot to happen, or the canines can be pulled out. Most of the time defanging is done by a veterinarian, but in some cases, owners will attempt this process on their own. Teeth that were not removed decay faster making it ever harder for the animal to eat. Most defanged cats have to be put on boneless meat, and then extra calcium supplemented to make up for the lack of bones in their diet.

This was is the case with Vada, a black leopard, whose owner used pliers to remove his teeth so that he could continue to play with him. Vada came to TCWR in a lot of pain. He had to have multiple procedures to fix the damage, but he spent the remainder of his life living an uncomfortable life due to his owner’s desire to make him ‘safe.’

The USDA’s Animal Welfare Act addresses the issue of declawing and defanging big cats and non-human primates, but these procedures are not yet illegal. Until it is made illegal road side zoos, magicians, and pseudo-sanctuaries will continue to inhumanely declaw and defang big cats so that the public can interact with them.

A photo of Vada’s defanged mouth. Vada passed away in 2011.

“Declawing or the removal of the canine teeth (fangs) in wild or exotic carnivores or nonhuman primates are no longer considered to be appropriate veterinary care unless prescribed by the attending veterinarian for treatment of individual medical problems of the paws or teeth. These procedures are no longer deemed to be acceptable when performed solely for handling or husbandry purposes since they can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the animal and may result in chronic health problems. These procedures are no longer allowed under the Animal Welfare Act. This notice is consistent with the current position statement issued by the American Veterinary Medical Association.” – USDA Animal Welfare Act

In the past, declawing was seen as a standard practice, but as more research has been done, the animal care field has found out the poor consequences of these actions. Good rescue facilities are willing to adapt and learn about new standards of animal husbandry. Their goal is to do whatever is in the best interest of the animals in their care. They are willing to change policies and procedures for the betterment of the animals.

Over the 25 years that Turpentine Creek has been open, our policies and procedures have changed. We’ve learned better ways to build habitats, feed, and care for our animals. We’ve evolved and adapted as needed over the years. We do not declaw, defang, or allow hands-on interaction with our animals. For our declawed and defanged animals, we have them in a pain management program to help them live as normal lives as possible. We will continue to learn and grow as long as we are needed making sure what we do is in the best interest of the animals in our care.