Monthly Archives: December 2019

Christmas Tree Enrichment

A Big Cat Christmas Treat

December 24, 2019

Christmas is not quite over at Turpentine Creek, it’s actually just beginning! As Christmas trees start to come down in houses, they start going up in our animal residents’ habitats. Most Christmas trees end up in landfills once they are no longer useful as holiday decorations in our homes. But these beautiful trees can still serve a purpose, at Turpentine Creek, Christmas trees become wonderful, environmental, enrichment for our big cat residents!

It is important to provide a variety of enrichment to keep the animals happy and active. Utilizing seasonal enrichment helps to keep our animals entertained throughout the year! These Christmas trees are beneficial to our cats for a wide variety of reasons! 

We typically only get Christmas tree donations once a year, so it is a rare treat for us to give our animals these fun scented treats. The trees are especially interesting to the animals because they have a new smell and texture that will encourage them to get active and play. The fresh smell of pine is inviting for the animals to sniff, bite and even scratch their claws on.

As the trees sit in the habitats, they also can be used as a new hiding spot for TCWR residents. The cats love having a place to stay hidden while they stalk but, sometimes, the tree becomes the one being stalked! Also, the bristly texture of the pine needles is just the thing to scratch the itches that the cats can’t reach!

As you wrap up this Christmas season, instead of throwing out your Christmas tree, think about donating to give the animals at Turpentine Creek a new toy! Locals can bring Live Christmas trees to Turpentine Creek with all decorations removed (especially tensile, it is bad for the cats) during normal business hours. We do not accept decorated trees or fake trees, as the animals cannot have them. 

First Snowfall of 2019

“Do Big Cats Like The Cold?”

December 17, 2019

SNOW! Monday evening, the Refuge was graced with the start of a lovely winter wonderland. A thin layer of white snow spread across the grounds, ice hung on trees and fence panels, water dishes contained a thin layer of ice, and the cats were eagerly awaiting a chance to play in the snow!

People often ask “Do your big cats like the cold weather?” The answer is yes! The majority of our animals love cooler weather. Of course, there are exceptions, lions and servals are African cats and prefer to spend the colder days cuddling in their heated dens. Tigers and native animals like bobcats and mountain lions are adapted for the cooler weather. They grow thick fur coats during the winter to insulate them. Our cats love to frolic and play in the cold weather and snowfall gives us the opportunity to create seasonal enrichment for them.

Our cats get to enjoy the snow when we get enough, team members find ways to include it in enrichment: snowmen (or cats), snow piles with enrichment hidden underneath, and snow forts. It has been a few years since we had a snowfall heavy enough to really incorporate it into our enrichment program, but we wouldn’t mind a nice heavy snowfall that we can use to enrich the lives of our animal residents.

So, why not plan to spend a lovely winter’s day enjoying the Refuge? This is one of the best times of year to come! Next time you are trying to think of how to spend your day off, bundle up in your winter gear and come to spend some time with the animals. We are open every day of the year except for Christmas. They don’t mind a little winter weather, do you?

We may suspend tours due to inclement weather, so please check road conditions before you come, if the roads are icy we will probably not be offering tours that day. 

The US Has A Tiger Problem

The American “Generic” Tiger

December 10, 2019

The demand for tigers as a source of entertainment and being kept in private ownership is deterring from the reality of the very possible extinction of wild tigers in the near future. Approximately 95% of captive tigers are privately owned and have no conservation or genetic value. They have been cross-bred between different subspecies, diluting their genetics, and carries a negative implication for animal welfare and species conservation efforts.

Breeding tigers is not consistently regulated in private hands, many generic tigers also suffer health issues due to inbreeding and over-breeding practices. The purpose is to have as many babies as possible, and not to ensure that the genetics are preserved or animal welfare is a priority.

Currently, there are over 5,000 privately owned tigers in the United States, while only ~ 3,800 wild tigers remain between 5 different subspecies. Many private owners, menageries, and roadside zoos also breed for traits that are not naturally found in the wild, such as white tigers, causing debilitating health issues from inbreeding.

As a legitimate captive breeding and conservation program, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is an accrediting organization that over 200 true zoos have obtained to ensure the highest standards of animal care, education, scientific research, and conservation. They follow strict and regulated guidelines for their breeding programs to ensure that genetics are pure and that endangered species being bred for conservation purposes to maximize genetic diversity for the Amur (Siberian), Malayan, and Sumatran tiger subspecies in their Species Survival Plan. AZA zoos currently have 269 tigers within their breeding programs.

It is vital that take action now to prevent further abuse and neglect of big cats, and only support facilities that are focused on animal welfare, education, and conservation. As an individual, you can make a difference by choosing to support true zoos and sanctuaries, who are not exploiting this magnificent species.

How You Can Help:

  • Join us to advocate for the Big Cat Public Safety Act to end private ownership and cub petting in the United States. With stricter laws, the focus can shift on protecting tigers and their wild counterparts.
  • Visit our: How You Can Help Page to learn more about how your choices make an impact.
  • Visit true sanctuaries like TCWR, that rescue abused and neglected privately owned tigers, and provide them with a life they deserve.
  • Do your research before you visit any facility that exhibits animals to the public.
  • Do not visit places that allow interaction with big cats, breeding outside of AZA regulated zoo facilities, and allow cub petting and photo opportunities.


Association of Zoos & Aquariums. (n.d). Tiger Conservation. Retrieved from

World Wildlife Fund. Winter 2016. Captive Tigers in the US. Retrieved from

You Made 2019 Giving Tuesday Great

Your Support Makes A Difference

December 4, 2019

You showed up Tuesday, December 3, to #GiveFocus and #GiveFuture during Giving Tuesday, donating over $38,000 to get us through the end of the year and laying a solid foundation for our 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future. 

Our unofficial total is $38,203, at the time of this blog post, but we are still waiting on numbers from Facebook and other sources. We feel confident that you allowed us to hit our $40,000 goal! We hope everyone who participated in this international day of giving had as wonderful of a time as we did. 

For Animal Curator, Emily McCormack and Communications Director, Lisa Brinker, the day began early with some fantastic news coverage by KNWA Northwest Arkansas News! They began with a 5 AM segment discussing our Giving Tuesday activities and allowing our animal residents to show-off for the cameras. KNWA News spent the rest of the day promoting us on their homepage! We are grateful they chose to #GiveFocus to the issues big cats everywhere are facing and what Turpentine Creek and all of our wonderful supporters are doing to make a positive change! 

You gave us a strong start, pouring donations in through Facebook at 8 AM EST! Some of you were up as early as 3 A.M. attempting to help us earn Facebook’s dollar for dollar match. Over $4,000 was raised during that time frame, which means that there is a chance that we will have an extra $4,000 to add to our total if we earned the match (Facebook says they will notify matching recipients in early January)! The money donated through Facebook quickly pushed us past our $3,000 mini goal to replenish our veterinary supplies and purchase specialty medical tools for emergency surgeries. These donations were made in honor of Ringo tiger, who passed away from complications following an intensive surgery earlier in the month. Just as you stood up to #RallyForRingo during his illness, you came through on Giving Tuesday to help his legacy live on in the other animals we will be able to help with the surgical instruments purchased. 

Once $5,000 was raised, we gave away a Family Fun Pack, which included four standard admission tickets, a TCWR calendar and an issue of the “Big Cat Chronicles” quarterly newsletter, plus a $10 Big Cat Bucks reloadable gift card. It wasn’t long after that when we hit our $10,000 mini goal and were able to draw a random winner for a photo and magnet of a TCWR animal resident of their choice! We had raised $15,000 before 1 P.M. and gave away an exclusive Coffee with the Curator Tour. In order to enter the giveaway, we asked supporters to share one thing they learned from TCWR, either by visiting or following along on social media. Here are some of the answers: 

  • “How bad declawing is for all cats…..large and small.” -Nikki S.
  • “I’ve learned that there is a huge problem in our country of people having large cats and keeping them in horrible conditions…” -Wendy P.
  • “The sad truth about cub petting and the related breeding behind it…” – Tracy G.
  • “My 8-year-old boy Benjamin even though we are at a distance admiring the tigers [learned] when they turn around and put their rear ends up to the fence don’t stand in amusement, run. Benjamin got sprayed. Even with that happening, he continues to love the tigers and someday wants to help the rescues.” – David R. 

After that, donations slowed down for a while, but we randomly drew the name for paw painting winners when we raised $20,000 and again at $25,000! The two paintings were created by Bobby the bobcat and Tigger the Golden Tabby Tiger. Both were special for different reasons. Bobby is a blind bobcat, and this was the first paw painting he ever attempted! He created a beautiful purple piece complete with itty bitty bobcat paw prints. Tigger is a newer animal resident and has done a paw painting before, but he’s a favorite of many! His multi-colored work of art was complete with dirt smudges and claw marks. We did a live drawing during 4 PM Behavioral Training, where viewers were treated to Tanya and Kizmin munching on meat treats before the winners were announced. 

The next mini-goal was $30,000, but the $35,000 was perhaps the most coveted because we were giving away a prize we never had before. Many of you are familiar with Emily McCormack, who has been with our organization for over 20 years and currently serves as our Animal Curator. She offered to do a personal video chat with the winner and their favorite TCWR animal resident! 

For the video chat giveaway, we asked people to enter by commenting on one thing they hoped to see in the future for big cats. A few of the answers were: 

  • “ I hope that regulations will change that will prevent private ownership and that will improve living conditions for them across the country/world!” -Laura E.
  • “ I hope all animals in captivity can find grass under their feet and warm, dry dens in accredited sanctuaries like Turpentine Creek.” -Laura R.
  • “Exotic animal trade will be a thing of the past and all existing animals will be in Wildlife refuge like Turpentine Creek” -Karen V.
  • “I really hope cub petting comes to an end…” – Elizabeth K.
  • “I hope that the bill before Congress passes so exotic and wild animals are protected. I hope circuses completely stop using all animals. I hope trophy hunting becomes illegal. I hope palm forests become protected. ‘A million dreams of the world we’re gonna make.’” – Heather K.

Together, we can make these wishes come true for the sake of exotic animals everywhere. Your donations will allow us to not only serve the animals who currently call the Refuge home, but to #GiveFocus to big cats through advocacy and education and #GiveFuture to others still trapped in the Big Cat Trade. Thank you for dreaming big dreams with us and stepping up to make those dreams a reality for those who are affected most by them: the animals.

It takes our entire team to make Giving Tuesday a success from our Animal Care and Education interns and staff making enrichment to celebrate donation milestones, our Communications team creating posts and live videos to engage our supporters, to our gift shop staff informing the visitors about Giving Tuesday, it is an entire team effort and we appreciate everyone for their efforts!

As a reminder, our largest prize to show our appreciation for our Giving Tuesday support is a 2-night getaway to Eureka Springs that includes a bundle of activities, such as 2 weeknights at the Refuge. If we find out we have hit our $40,000, we will be giving it away, so make sure to follow our social media for updates! We also did several cat-tastic live videos on December 3, so feel free to scroll through our Facebook to catch up on them if you missed out. 

1…2…3…Paws in! Go team! Our 2020 vision looks bright!