Monthly Archives: October 2018

Updating Habitat Continued

Project Near Completion

October 31, 2018

In late 2015, Turpentine Creek began working to upgrade our habitats, replacing old fencing, raising fence heights, and even rebuilding a few of our older habitats. It was a time consuming, labor intensive, and costly project, but it needed to be done due to changes in habitat regulations. The project was in full swing and nearly completed when it came to a screeching halt after we received the phone call that begun the Colorado Project. All but one habitat had been revamped when we had to shift our focus from fixing to building so that we could accommodate 34 new animals at the Refuge. Turpentine Creek got approval to hold off on the rebuild of the final habitat as long as no new animals were moved into it.

Three years, a brand new on-site veterinary hospital, 123 animals rescued, 2 animals rehomed to the Refuge, 3 new habitats built, and numerous smaller projects later and work on the final habitat is about to begin.

On Tuesday, October 30, Chuff, Abigail, and Athena were moved to the newly emptied habitat next to their old one. The team constructed a temporary ‘shoot’ to make the move from their former habitat to their new one easy. It took a little encouragement (a red boomer ball and some fun encouragement from Emily), but all three tigers were safely moved into their new habitat.

In the upcoming days, once the rain stops, the animal care team will cut down the current poles and wiring. The poles will be extended to 12 feet high with a 3 feet jump guard, and 4×4 inch wiring will be hung around the whole habitat. When this habitat is completed all 60 habitats will be up to regulation standards. We are excited to finalize this project. Since we began reconstruction of our habitats metal prices have risen 25%, meaning this habitat reconstruct will cost more than the previous ones. Please donate to our habitat fund to help mitigate the increased cost to rebuild this final habitat. 

On the Move

Bear Relocation

October 24, 2018

The bears at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge are on the move! This past week, six of our bears were relocated from 3 habitats across the property into their new forever homes! The six bears will now live in two large habitats down at rescue ridge.

On Sunday, TCWR team members moved Xena, Koda G, and Popper into the larger of the two habitats. Currently, Xena and Koda G live separately from Popper, but they will be introduced shortly after the habitat grand opening, which will happen this Sunday, October 28, 2019, at 12 pm. Introducing bears is not usually an issue, as long as they have plenty of space, which they will.

On Monday, we moved Holli, and Lolli. These two small black bear girls already live with Huggy, a Russian brown bear. Because of how big Huggy is, we decided to wait until Tuesday, to move Huggy.

While we had the bears sedated, our on-staff Veterinary, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, did a full examination for each bear. She assessed their overall health, ran blood work, took X-rays, microchipped them, and got a weight on most of them. Our the smallest black bear, Xena, weighed 220lbs. We did not get a weight on Huggy, since he was so heavy to lift and move, but we estimate that he weighs well over 800lbs.

All three moves went smoothly and all six bears are waiting, impatiently, to explore their new homes. They are currently spending the next few days in their new night houses, acclimating to the new environment. This Sunday, the public is invited to join us for a special habitat grand opening at noon. Visitors who attend will get a special hayride tour of rescue ridge and the bear habitats, along with the chance to see five of the six bears take their first steps into their forever homes.

The bear habitat project cost over $150,000 and took 18 months of dedicated hard work to complete. These habitats sit on a combined 3 acres of land and are our two largest habitats at the refuge. They are full of trees, natural enrichment, plenty of food to forage, pools, and more! We are excited that the project is done and cannot wait to see how the bears react. Please join us this Sunday for the grand opening, we hope to see you here.

Welcoming our newest resident


October 17, 2018

Today, we welcomed our newest resident, Jasmine, an 8-year-old tigress, that came to us from a zoo in Kansas. Jasmine was housed with her sister but the two were fighting. Since the facility didn’t have room to separate the two tigers they began searching for a new home for Jasmine. They had decided to rehome Jasmine instead of her sister because Jasmine is not a fan of large crowds and children.

Scott and Tanya Smith left Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge on Sunday evening to make the 900-mile round trip to pick up Jasmine early this week. They returned late Tuesday evening with Jasmine. We released her into her new habitat at Rescue Ridge first thing on Wednesday.

Jasmine will remain at Rescue Ridge due to her fear of crowds and children. It is our goal to make sure that our animals are comfortable in their new homes. We are excited to see how Jasmine adapts her new home here at the Refuge. She is available for adoptions currently and still needs one sponsor. 

We are glad that we could offer Jasmine a forever home with us. Stay tuned as we learn more about Jasmine’s personality and for updates on how she is settling in. You can see Jasmine when you take one of our exclusive behind the scenes tours. 

Jasmine sleeping in her night house shortly after unloading. She has access to her yard and soon will have access to her new habitat. A short quarantine period is need for observation.


Bear Habitat Invitation

Grand Opening

October 11, 2018

You are invited to join us on October 28, at 12 pm for the official grand opening of our two large, natural, bear habitats! Thanks to our wonderful supporters, we have finally completed the two largest habitats on property! Filled with trees, in-ground pools, rock formations, and plenty of natural enrichment, these two habitats are ideal to house rambunctious bears.

Popper, Xena, and Koda G will be sharing our 2 1/2 acre habitat. At first, the Xena and Koda will rotate days with Popper, but we hope this will only be a temporary situation. We hope to introduce the three within a few weeks after the habitat release. This way Popper get the chance to teach the cubs how to be bears. Huggy, Holli, and Lolly will share the other habitat. All three will be released together on the day of the habitat grand opening.

Our hope is to eventually add live video cameras down in the bear habitat area, tracking collars so we can keep an eye on how the bears use the habitats, and offer up research opportunities to colleges that might want to study the behaviors of our captive bears. These habitats are a great opportunity not just for the bears that will be living in them but for the scientific community.

This event is open to the public. Normal entry fees apply but no additional fee will be charged. Please make sure you show up before 12 pm so that you can catch the trolley down to the bear habitat area.

Volunteer Experience Part 2

International Volunteering

October 3, 2018

I have visited several Wildlife Centres around the world. I remember asking a Swedish volunteer why they traveled all the way from Sweden to Malaysia to volunteer at this certain Turtle Conservation Centre. They told me because this was one of those Centres where they could be reasonably well involved in the operations of the Centre. One might not be able to be as involved in a Big / International Centre.

Spending 30 hours to travel from Singapore to London, to Chicago to Arkansas, and spending a good week Volunteering at Turpentine Creek – I now understand what my Swedish friend meant. We appreciated having the very behind the scenes look we got Volunteering at Turpentine Creek. We got to shadow the Animal Care team in charge of the Big Cat exhibits, help to prepare food and medications for the Animals, build a fence for the new Bears habitat, make Enrichment/toys for the Big Cats.

If you haven’t already, do check out my fellow Animal Loving travel buddy, Dee’s recount of all the things we helped do and learned at Turpentine Creek! We were happy to help with any little task, out of our usual work lives, to do something for the Animals. One would not get this kind of access that we got at Turpentine Creek just anywhere.

It was also very educational. The Big Cats at Turpentine Creek were all rescued from some sort of sad, dire situation – results and rejects of the Exotic Pet Trade, which we learned about in depth from Hannah, our Turpentine Creek host & Wildlife Interpreter at the Refuge. A strong believer in the importance of Education to help remedy the sources of problems of the Exotic Pet Trade, Hannah championed the formation of the Education Department at Turpentine Creek.

Hannah was warm, welcoming & dedicated to answering our questions, discussing Animal Welfare issues, controversial topics.. at a pace we were comfortable with. There are hard conversations to have about what we as people like to do, and what is best for the Animals – which I think everyone needs their own time to come to face with.

As an avid photographer, spending a whole week, days and nights at the Refuge, gave me ample time to photograph the Big Cats. They tend to be more active early in the morning, in the evening, and on cold rainy days. It was challenging to shoot through the well-secured double fencing the Animals were housed in. But it was a challenge I welcomed to capture these animals as beautifully as I could to inspire people to visit Turpentine Creek.

Photographers usually seek a picture perfect environment for photos, but I have come to understand that a picture perfect place might not always be as ethical as they claim to be. Representing Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, I look forward to promoting Turpentine Creek as a Wildlife Volunteer Destination and sending more Volunteer groups to Turpentine Creek.

We are scheduled for 3 talks upon our return to Singapore. The third including Hannah herself from the Refuge, who will be flying 30hrs all the way to Singapore in Asia to share personally about Turpentine Creek.

We are happy to be Voices for the Animals, and would like to say a Big Thank You to Everyone we met at Turpentine Creek, as well as our amazing host Hannah – for having us, doing all the hard, Amazing work they do for the Animals.

Sign up to volunteer at Turpentine Creek on their Volunteer page!

Written By: Nicole aka Nikkiko – Photographer, Animal Lover, Expedition Leader – Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours – Singapore