Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Oklahoma Six

TCWR Saves Six Tigers

January 24, 2019

Last week, seven team members from Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge made the 712-mile round trip to pick up six tigers from a closing facility in Oklahoma. The owner of the facility had lost his lease on the property after being harassed by a group of individuals. He reached out to Turpentine Creek on Monday, and by Wednesday we were on the road to rescue.

All six tigers had once been part of the cub petting pay-to-play scheme and were scheduled to be euthanized after they could no longer make a profit. The owner of the facility rescued them from that fate, but since he was losing the lease on his land, he needed to find them a new home. Their ages range from 16-months-old to 4-years-old.

All six tigers were located in two enclosures on the property; the youngest two, Floyd and Tigger, living in one habitat and the other four, Robbie, Frankie, Tommy, and Diesel, residing in the other. It was quickly evident that all of the tigers were overweight but one, Diesel, was seriously ill. Three of the tigers quickly loaded into their transport cages, but the other three (Robbie, Frankie, and Diesel) needed to be sedated.

It took nearly six hours (from 8 am until 1:45 pm) to load up the six cats; Diesel was last. He was lethargic and barely moved the entire time we were rounding up his friends. Once we had him sedated, we took blood so that we could figure out what was causing his illness as quickly as possible.

Seven hours later, the team arrived back at the Refuge. Our Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, met us and immediately checked over the newest TCWR residents. She then took the blood to the vet hospital to run it and find out what was happening with Diesel.

The following morning, Floyd, Tigger, Robbie, Frankie, and Tommie were let into their new habitats, while Diesel was taken to a recovery enclosure at the vet hospital. Dr. Kellyn found that Diesel had an elevated white blood cell count and an extremely low red blood cell count. She also saw signs of a tick-borne blood pathogen. She prescribed antibiotics and steroids to help Diesel battle his illness.

Over the weekend, the team kept a very close eye on Diesel’s progress. By Monday, Diesel had begun to move around more, sitting up and chuffing softly to the animal care team. We had hope that the beautiful orange tiger was on the road to recovery. Sadly, when we sedated him to test his blood again and check on the progress, the test revealed that instead of improving, his white blood cell count had risen further and his red blood cell count had dropped to dangerous levels. After discussing options, our vet advised that it was time to end Diesel’s suffering and let him pass on.

Robbie, Tommie, and Frankie quickly begun to settle into their new life at the Refuge. They live in a newly rebuilt habitat at the end of the tour loop. The three were also put on a diet to help reduce their weight.

Tigger quickly adjusted to his new habitat, next to the Siberian Suite and Tree House, but his roommate, Floyd, is still settling in and only comes out for short periods of time before returning to his den. We are watching Floyd closely since he had previously been diagnosed with severe metabolic bone disease.

Once the weather warms up, we plan to sedate all five tigers and give them a thorough examination along with blood tests to make sure that they do not also have the blood pathogen that Diesel died from. Since big cats cannot regulate their body temperature when sedated, it is very dangerous to sedate them when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Until we can examine them, we are watching them all closely for symptoms of the blood pathogen.

Although we try very hard, the reality is that we cannot always arrive in time to save everyone. We were too late to save Diesel’s life. So many animals are not reached in time and fall victim to the heartless Exotic Pet Trade and Cub Petting industries. This is why we educate and advocate to protect big cats. Please be the voice for the voiceless. It is up to YOU to put an end to the Exotic Pet Trade, reach out to your congressmen and tell them that this has to END. Support true sanctuaries, donate to help us continue to help them. The fight isn’t over yet, continue to fight, in memory of Diesel and all the other victims of Cub Petting. Please donate today to help us care for these five new rescues as well as all the other animals that call the Refuge home.

Making Changes To Help Environment

Turpentine Creek’s “No Plastic Bag” Initiative

January 17, 2019

Turpentine Creek has taken the pledge to reduce our plastic waste. Our mission at the refuge is to rescue abandoned, abused and unwanted big cats, but we also believe it is important to be pro-active in many areas of conservation and environmentalism. In an effort to help with the overwhelming problem of plastics in the environment, we have launched a “No Plastic Bag” initiative for our gift shops.

Last year, we began to roll out the program by offering reusable TCWR totes as a choice. This year, we will no longer carry plastic bags at all. You can join TCWR in making the world a healthier place by joining our “No Plastic Bag” initiative and get your own reusable TCWR tote today! Our beautiful, reusable bags that will be available for an additional $2 donation to the refuge.

Did you know:

  • The average American family takes home almost 1500 plastic shopping bags a year
  • Only approximately 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling
  • At least 600 different animal species have been affected by plastic pollution in the ocean
  • Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but it takes at least 500 years for it to degrade in a landfill
  • 80% of all plastic in the ocean comes from land
  • There is currently 19 BILLION pounds of garbage in the ocean
  • By 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish
  • If we do not take action, plastic pollution is predicted to double by 2025

Problem: The problem with plastics is that they do not biodegrade, once they are made they will never leave the planet. Recycling only downgrades materials, and cannot constantly be reused. Marine life is heavily affected by plastics, causing them to either eat plastic and not be able to pass it, or become entangled. One in three endangered leatherback turtles has been found to have died due to consuming plastic. Thousands of marine life dependent on the ocean die every day due to our trash. Plastics break down over time, absorbing into marine life and also ending up on our dinner plates.

Solution: Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, and rethink the amount of plastic you consume. Avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible and use re-usable items such as water bottles, food containers, shopping bags, toothbrushes, straws, coffee cups, non-synthetic clothing etc. Properly dispose of your trash, ensuring that recyclable materials do not end up in a landfill.

Individual choices DO matter, if we all make changes now, we can greatly decrease the amount of harm that our waste does to the planet. Empower others around you to make changes in their daily lives to help the environment.

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”-Albert Einstein

Video Year In Review

2018 was Purrfect!

January 11, 2019

Last year was a wild ride! We had so much to celebrate- building our new bear habitat, updating night houses, welcoming new animal residents, and ringing in birthdays and cheering on milestones for those already in our care. We hope this video makes you smile as much as it did us. Thank you for sticking with us throughout 2018- here’s to 2019 and all it has in store!

Extending the Holiday Spirit

Enriching the Lives of Our Animals

January 10, 2019

One of our favorite times of year is after Christmas and shortly after New Year’s Day when gently used live Christmas Trees begin to arrive. Pine trees carry a strong scent that might trigger nostalgia in humans, but for big cats, it means a special form of enrichment only experienced during a short time of the year. Our big cats love this fun form of enrichment, and it helps keep the trees out of landfills, helping the environment.

Luckily, each year we have a steady supply of trees from local supporters and the Crescent Hotel. During the month of December, the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs hosts a “Crescent Christmas Forest” where nonprofits from the area decorate trees and people vote for their favorite with donations, which the nonprofit receives. At the end of the event, the trees are then donated to Turpentine Creek so that our big cats can enjoy some extra enrichment.

Throughout the week, our animals will be getting Christmas trees as part of their daily enrichment program. Some of the animals, like Daniel and Fergy (pictured above) love to rub and scent their Christmas tree enrichment, others will tear them to itty bitty pieces, and a few will ignore them in favor of their permeant enrichment (boomer balls). It is always interesting to watch the reactions of our animals to the various types of enrichment that we provide them.

Seasonal enrichment is a great way to encourage our animals to utilize their natural instincts. Scent enrichment is vital to keeping our animals lives fun and stimulating. We are very appreciative to everyone who donates Christmas trees, scent enrichment, boomer balls, and other various types of enrichment throughout the year. Donate today so that we can continue to provide quality care for the animals that call the Refuge home.

Improving Animal Care

Why We Continue to Making Strides Towards Quality Care

January 2, 2018

The TCWR animal care and veterinary program grants lifelong care to rescued survivors of the exotic animal trade, elevating their quality of life. We are always looking at ways to lower stress in our animals and improve how we care for their physical and mental well-being.

In 2016, your belief and commitment realized the first step in ending the stress and risk of anesthetizing and transporting our big cats and bears over 40 miles for veterinary care, with the construction of the Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital. In 2018, we took the second step, with the addition of staff Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley.  Having a vet on-site enables us to conduct weekly evaluations of each animal’s physical and mental health, to better plan for their long-term care and avoid emergency situations with early intervention.

In zoos people see perfect specimens; at sanctuaries, like TCWR, visitors learn about animals whose fangs have been filed, claws removed, injuries gone untreated, and who suffer from diseases and physical deformities caused by malnutrition and inbreeding. Health complications are always an issue in our rescued animals, and regular exams can make the difference between life and death for many.

Since joining the team, Dr. Sweeley has dedicated much of her time to making sure that pain management and dietary requirements of all our animals are up-to-date to ensure we properly address their changing needs as they age by using the muscle condition scoring system developed by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee (WSAVA). When she observes cats with new limps, she checks for ingrown claws; Roulon’s ingrown claws were diagnosed and treated when she noticed he was limping more prevalently on his front left limb.

Nala had started frequently vomiting in early October; Dr. Sweeley had been closely monitoring her as she was showing signs of moderate chronic kidney disease. Once the vomiting began, and she stopped eating, she started Nala on an intense treatment plan for suspected Stage 3 kidney disease. With her vomiting under control she is eating again and has been doing great — we’ve slowed the progression of the disease and had her feeling good again.

Blackfire’s lifesaving surgery came about because when Dr. Sweeley observed his discomfort she was able to try GI medications first, realize early on that they were not controlling his symptoms, and then made the timely decision to fully anesthetize for radiographs and blood profile. With an outside vet it would likely have taken a much longer time to get to the same conclusions; by then we could have lost this young tiger.  Instead, your generosity allowed us to take him for emergency surgery to repair the extreme hiatal hernia threatening his life, and today he is back enjoying his grassy habitat and roughhousing with his sisters.

While having Dr. Sweeley on-site is  elevating the quality of life for all our animal residents, the initial costs to stock our clinic puts an enormous strain on our resources:  Having the equipment, instruments and supplies necessary for common immunizations, prescriptions and medical procedures to treat the many conditions these animals suffer from such caused by inbreeding, malnutrition, declawing, defanging, and neglect are necessary to make the program a success.

Beyond veterinary and medical expenses our Animal Care Program also includes the maintenance and updating of their habitats, daily care, and enrichment to closely mimic the mental and physical stimulation they would experience living free.

Our 2018, Animal Care and Veterinary expenses, aside from the equipment so generously contributed by donations from Giving Tuesday 2018, stand at:

  • Habitat Expenses – $ 28,790
  • Payroll – $ 12,600
  • Rescue Expenses – $968
  • Animal Enrichment – $2,825
  • Animal Care – $15,487
  • Animal Food – $131,276
  • Medication – $16,492
  • Vet Procedures – $16,818

Total Expenses – $225,256

Together, we can continue to offer them the best quality of lifelong care here at the Refuge.  Remember, winter is our slowest time for visitors, so we need your support now more than ever! Donate today to help us keep helping them!