Monthly Archives: October 2019

Giving Tuesday 2019

Are You With Us?

October 29, 2019

Today, the typical life of a tiger in the U.S. looks like…

  • A cramped cage.
  • A filthy floor.
  • Green water.
  • Uncertainty of when their next meal will be.
  • Breeding and breeding and breeding then birthing babies only to have them immediately taken away.
  • A painful, treatable infection- but no treatment is given so death is slow and suffering.
  • Shivering as the trainer with a whip commands jumping through a ring of fire…do you jump or be whipped? Which is worse?
  • Being viewed as a disposable, replaceable money-making tool instead of being respected as a wild animal, a sentient being.

Tomorrow could look different, but only if you are willing to help.

In 2020, we will be focusing on the things each one of us can do to change the future for big cats. If each one of you took an action, no matter how small, we could make a radical difference for what the next year- even the next 10 years – looks like for both our animal residents and those who still need to be rescued. We want 2020 to be the catalyst for major change. Decades from now, we want to look back and remember it as the year that got us where we are.

Our 2020 vision is a bold one, and we are using Giving Tuesday 2019 as our kickoff by setting an equally bold fundraising goal. It’s our most ambitious Giving Tuesday yet, but we know you will make it a success! Please join us Tuesday, December 3, to #GiveFocus and #GiveFuture as you give your support to our $40,000 Giving Tuesday goal that will launch us into our 2020 Campaign- 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future.

You are always so quick to praise us and the work that we do. We are grateful, but you are the real heroes. Without you, where would we be? Likely, still in the tiny space some of you may remember from decades ago, with animals in a better place than they were before their rescue but still not in the best environment they could be in. Without you, “ethical tourism,” and “ethical entertainment” would be phrases unheard of and the conversation surrounding how we treat wildlife in the U.S. would be nonexistent. You are a part of our team and dare we say, the most crucial part.

Participating in Giving Tuesday means taking a tangible action to craft the future big cats deserve. Your support will lay a solid foundation for going into the New Year secure in our ability to care for our animal residents and brazen enough to ask “What more can we do?” We are ready to take our standards of care, our education, our advocacy to the next level! We are ready to think bigger and act bigger! Change CAN happen within our lifetime for big cats- are you with us?

Click hear to learn more about Giving Tuesday, December 3, and all the ways (including non-monetary) you can get involved. Stay tuned for information on the give-aways, special videos, and other celebrations we will be having that day!

As the first small action you take, please click here and mark “going” on our Giving Tuesday event on Facebook. This will help you stay up-to-date and spread the word to others about our campaign.

Protecting Black Cats Big And Small

Persecution and Superstition Against Black Cats Big And Small

October 23, 2019

Big cats are dangerous animals and, in the wild, they can be misconstrued and are often killed for following their natural instincts. Even big cats born and bred in captivity still have their natural instincts. Spyke, for example, might have been raised at TCWR after his mother rejected him, but he still likes to ‘hunt’ team members and visitors through the fence; He will stalk and pounce at anything that catches his attention. He also loves to climb, a natural instinct for leopards, who tend to drag their prey into trees to protect it from scavengers and other predators. Acting on these wild instincts, Spyke can often be found demolishing pumpkins, paper bags, and any other enrichment item you place in his habitat.

In the wild, leopards, like Spyke, face major problems such as habitat loss and reduction of prey numbers. Leopards located near livestock farms will often find it much more convenient to make a meal out of the livestock than to hunt their natural prey; This causes conflict with the farmers and local towns and will often lead to the killing of the leopards. Habitat loss and trophy hunting also contribute to the decline in leopard populations.

These beautiful animals are also used symbolically. In some South African cultures, leopards are killed for their pelts to be worn as a sign of pride, beauty, and wealth. The myth that you can gain power from the pelt of an animal you kill is contributing to the population decline. Fortunately, many of these tribes are beginning to use faux fur pelts in the place of real pelts for these ceremonial purposes.

Around this time of year, black cats can be quite popular. They can be found in almost all Halloween movies, shows, and decorations. So yes, cats, even large ones like leopards, can have certain mythical or spiritual connections. These affiliations oftentimes lead to unfortunate circumstances, just like with leopards and the desire for their pelts.

Much like larger wild relatives, black domestic cats are unfairly judged, especially around Halloween. Unfortunately, some people see these cute little felines as bad luck or even as a sign of evil. Sometimes, these unfounded superstitions can lead to dangerous situations for our own little “house panthers” and “lap lions.”

During the month of October, many animal shelters across the country do not allow the adoption of black cats; Some places will not adopt out cats at all. Some shelters site the risk of torturing or killing black cats for cult rituals, or just acts of spite, as reason for the ban on adoption. People often only adopt black cats as props for Halloween, but then have no use for them after the festivities have ended. Because of this, many shelters have also seen a higher return or abandonment rate of black cats after Halloween.

Creating awareness and educating the public about the plight of cats, big and small, is vital to their futures. To learn more about leopards, visit our Leopard Species Page. You can also come to visit us on the evening of October 25th for our annual Howloween Spooktacular, to see that black cats, or black leopards like Spyke, aren’t always bad luck!

A Spooktacular Event

You’re Invited For Our Annual Howl-O-Ween Event!

October 15, 2019

Our annual Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular has been a hit the past 24 years, and we’re excited to bring our family-friendly celebration back Friday, October 25, from 7 PM – 9 PM. You read that right, we are moving our Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular event to Friday this year! We keep things age-friendly meaning the spookiest section of the Refuge is clearly marked and curtained off for the little ones who might get too frightened.

Put on your favorite costume and see if you have the ghostly grit to win one of our costume contests or compete against other sneaky spooks in a variety of games! Bob along like candied apples in our bounce house and curb your zombie-like hunger with goodies from our concession stand (brains not served). You can also enjoy mystical entertainment by magician Carlos David Magic! Not to mention, the most exciting part:

This is your one chance of the year to see our big cats in a whole new light: after dark!

We will be giving guided hayride tours to all attendees. Most of our animal residents are highly active at night. The Refuge decorations and bustling of costume-clad princesses and werewolves provide engaging enrichment that gets them excited!

See if you can spot the stripes of our tiger residents in the moonlight! Tigers are literally built for hunting after the sun goes down. When the moon hits their stripes, their bodies appear “broken up,” making it difficult for their prey to differentiate between predator and shadows! Their eyes contain more rods than cones; rods are used to identify shapes while cones process color. A higher rod-count allows them to detect movement in their nighttime environment when seeing in clear color would not be useful.

Lions sometimes hunt at night but are much more opportunistic with their schedules. Typically, hunting after dusk is beneficial to this breed of felines because their eyesight and stealth is more efficient than their prey’s. It is also much cooler, which benefits lions in two ways. First, they aren’t having to exert themselves as they would under the baking Savannah sun. Second, prey like antelope stores body heat then releases it at night, which means their muscles are weaker at that time, making them an easy meal for a hungry lion!

You’ve likely observed our leopard residents idly perching high upon the natural features placed throughout their habitat during your daytime visit. This is how they spend their days in the wild but at night is when they come out to find food! Like lions, they are often opportunistic with their hunts, but because they solitarily search for prey in the hot sun without a powerful band of teammates to help out, nighttime is their best time. They prefer ambushing predators from the shadows of trees and are hesitant to waste energy on a long chase if their sneak attack fails.

Our African Serval residents are actually considered “crepuscular,” which means they are more active during twilight, but will occasionally emerge at night. Our bear residents may be snoozing in their dens during the Spooktacular, as this species commonly checks their bear-necessities off their to-do lists from dawn until dusk, though in certain areas with high human populations, some have adapted a nocturnal lifestyle to avoid human contact. In the wild, cougars take a similar approach by going out during dawn, dusk, and at night to stay away from people. Bobcats are naturally nocturnal. This habit allows them to remain elusive, as well.

We hope you can join us Friday, October 25, and experience Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge like you never have before!

The Price Of Life

Is a Bobcat Worth More Alive or Dead?

October 8, 2019

Have you ever wondered how valuable a bobcat is? We know that they are very important to the environments that they live in for a variety of reasons, one of which being prey population management. But, sometimes bobcat furs are sold in order to make money. In the United States, a single pelt can be sold for an average of $416.

You might think that that is a lot of money. However, in Madison, Wyoming, a bobcat, known as the Madison River bobcat, makes much more than that; He does this by just being alive. Did you know that tourists make a special trip to Madison Wyoming every year? This special trip is made in order to witness and photograph this particular bobcat that is located on the Madison River. Bobcats are very aloof, and therefore difficult to see in the wild. Even in National Parks, like Yellowstone, these small cats are rarely seen by the public. A fact that makes seeing one in the wild all the more special, and people flock to this area in order to see one of the most elusive wild cat species in North America.

The lead scientist for Panthera’s puma program compiled a list of ecotourism costs that were associated with this particular bobcat and the many people that go to see and document the cat in one year. By interviewing guides, photographers, and other tourists that visited the area, he determined that in one year, those people collectively spent $308,105 on guide services, equipment, hotel costs, and revenue earned from photo sales.

Given this information, the value of a bobcat decreases by nearly 1000 times by killing it. This study is incredibly valuable to proving that the bobcat is worth much more alive than dead. It might seem odd to associate a monetary value with a living creature. But, in a world that is constantly using economic value to make legal, ethical, and personal decisions, it is vital that our society is aware of these lesser-known values.

For more information about our elusive neighbor, the bobcat, please visit our Species Information Page, or come visit us at Turpentine Creek to see our bobcat residents, learn their stories, and see for yourself how valuable a bobcat’s life is!

The Rest Of The Story

What 20/20 Left Out Of Their Siegfried And Roy Special

October 1, 2019

This past Friday, 20/20’s premier show featured Siegfried and Roy, two names that are recognized worldwide for their magic show performances that included white tigers along with a menagerie of other exotic animals. Their show ran in one form or another for over 30 years, but ended when one of the magicians, Roy, was almost killed by one of their white tigers, Mantacore.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was interviewed by a 20/20 team about the mistreatment of these animals, why magic shows are detrimental to the health of the animals, and about white tiger inbreeding. Sadly, the interview with Turpentine Creek’s big cat experts, President Tanya Smith and Animal Curator Emily McCormack, was reduced to a short five-minute segment that focused solely on the inbreeding of white tigers.

“These are inbred animals that all come back to one animal: the first white tiger that was captive. Mohan was bred back to his daughter to try to produce this white tiger, so that is where the inbreeding came about,” explained Emily McCormack on the 20/20 episode.

Afterward, 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts claimed, “There have been no reports of abnormalities with Siegfried and Roy’s white tigers. In fact, they say they practice conscientious breeding to avoid mating tigers that are closely related, and they say they stopped breeding tigers back in 2015.”

Despite this argument, factual information dictates that all white tigers are related. Though Siegfried and Roy may not have been breeding brother and sister or mother and son, absolutely no white tiger breeding is truly “conscientious.” Also, there may have been no reported “abnormalities” with the magicians’ tigers, but all white tigers share the same faulty genetics and predisposition for a number of diseases and deformities.

Roberts then brought up Kenny, a white tiger rescued by TCWR nearly 2 decades ago, who became the “poster child” for the problems of inbreeding after a photo of him falsely claiming he had Down Syndrome went viral.

“One who is kind of famous, Kenny, that we rescued back in 2000, he was deformed in the face, McCormack recalled. “A lot of [white tigers] are very visibly cross-eyed.”

McCormack reminded everyone that when it comes to ensuring other white tigers don’t suffer as Kenny did, “education is key.”

The chance to provide true education, however, was short-lived. McCormack’s small segment was the only true argument against the behind-the-scenes life of Siegfried and Roy’s act featured on the two-hour season premiere, other than the occasional brief comment about how dangerous the show potentially was. There were multiple quick clips about how there was no barrier between the audience and the tigers, the potential danger to the audience and performers, and how there was never any “major” incident before the October 3, 2003 incident. But what qualifies as major? Would a lion taking a “chunk” out of Roy, who then required 33 stitches just from the swipe of a paw not be seen as major? Or one of the many other unnamed and so-called “minor” accidents that happened over the years? Rather than delving into the true dangers of the act, the segment shifted focus to people happily petting cute little cubs.

In an old interview used in the feature, former Mirage Hotel Owner, Steve Wynn, recalled the day before the attack, saying he had discussed the threat of the powerful tigers with Roy. Wynn told Roy the most miraculous thing the illusionist had done was make millions of people forget these animals are dangerous. This comment emphasized that many people are hypnotized by this illusion, believing it is safe to keep a tiger or other large feline as a pet. Sadly, when the trance fades to reality, the true risks are revealed.

Many issues that are currently being discussed in headlines were completely ignored by the creators of the ABC segment, which we feel was a missed opportunity for creating a more balanced report. For example, H.R. 1380 – The Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill banning hands-on interaction by the public with animals like those used in Siegfried and Roy’s act and requiring barriers to protect audiences was recently voted on by the House of Representatives Oceans, Water, and Wildlife subcommittee to be presented to the floor. This bill will revolutionize the modern treatment of big cats in captivity, especially those used for profit, yet there was no mention of it in the piece.

Laws pertaining to declawing animals have also been a subject of recent debates and easily ties into magic shows since this method is often used to make the preforming animals “safer.” Another side of the story could have highlighted the dangers of obtaining a big cat and treating it like a pet.  Though many of these topics were very briefly touched on, it was not done so in a light that educated people on the detriments of such actions.

ABC’s entire episode of “Siegfried and Roy” painted an idealistic but unrealistic picture of living and working with deadly predators. It might have audiences believing the connection between the owner and the animal is “magical” and perfectly safe. The camera would often cut to the animals roaming freely around Siegfried and Roy’s home. Although it was good that these animals had so much space to live in, the problem is people tend to mimic what they see. When audiences see big cats living with humans, they think it is okay to have a tiger living with them, failing to realize their situation is far from the same. Most people cannot afford the proper space for the animals, they do not have the same security, or the same allowance for food and veterinary care. Unlike Siegfried and Roy, they might even have children or neighbors that are being put in danger daily due to their attempt to trap a tiger or lion in their home all because of the fantasy portrayed by the magicians’ lives.

Our organization was originally excited about the opportunity to bring big cat advocacy and education to a platform that would reach millions on a national scale. When Emily McCormack and Tanya Smith were interviewed, we were informed the second half of the 20/20 “Siegfried and Roy” special would show the other side of magic shows, focusing on why they are unhealthy for the animals forced to perform and the negative message they send to the public.

Sadly, the two-hour special seemed to be a very long promotion for Siegfried and Roy’s upcoming biography movie. It is our hope, however, that the brief moment we were given to share facts made an impact. Even if only one person came away with a new perspective on white tiger breeding, with a newfound drive to educate and advocate, the experience was a positive one.