Monthly Archives: March 2020

Not Our King

A TCWR Response To The Netflix Documentary “Tiger King”

March 27, 2020

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has recently been contacted by concerned supporters about the Netflix Docu-series “Tiger King.” Joe Exotic is one of the many animal exploiters that we are aware of and disprove of. These facilities; such as those ran by Doc Antle, Tim Stark, James Garretson, and Jeff Lowe who are also featured in this docu-series, exploit animals for profit. They do not work to conserve big cats, only use them to make money.

“We have been dealing with people like Joe Exotic for 28 + years. We are proud to give these beautiful animals a second chance by providing a great quality forever home where they can relax and live out their lives in big open habitats with great care everyday and no one forcing them to do anything but just live!” Miranda Smith, Hospitality Coordinator at Turpentine Creek, 3rd generation TCWR and daughter of President and Co-Founder Tanya Smith said.

We provide the best quality care possible in captivity, building large grassy habitats for our animals to enjoy and providing them the best food and veterinary care. Our team is composed of paid highly educated professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree in an animal related field. We have an on-staff veterinarian and a world-renowned animal care internship to make sure our animals are well cared for.

Large carnivores, like tigers and lions, are dangerous and it is for their safety and yours that you should never participate in hands-on interaction with big cats of any age. We are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a founding member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, certified through USDA and the state of Arkansas, and a member of AAZK.

Erik Goode, co-director of Tiger King, has been quoted by Vanity Fair Magazine as to stating “The real takeaway should be to give your money to conservation programs around the world that are really working hard to save tigers in their range countries and not give your money to sanctuaries, which are really, effectively just caging tigers and cats.”

Although we fully agree that people should not support roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries, this statement leaves out an entire group of people, including Turpentine Creek, which are just trying to do the right thing and save survivors of the exotic pet trade. These rescue facilities, true sanctuaries like Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, do not buy, breed, sell, trade, take off- property, or allow any hands-on interaction with big cats.

“People like Joe only want fame. At TCWR all we want is to provide quality lifetime care for the animals. It’s amazing to watch the animals we rescue who come in scared and timid realizing real quick we are there to take care of them. It’s a whole new world for them and it’s super special to see them open up,” Miranda Smith said.

We are not here to exploit the animals, but to offer life-long refuge to those who were lucky enough to survive their cubhood with abusers like Joe Exotic, only to be sold to private owners who do not know how to properly care for them. We take in the survivors and give them a safe place to live out their lives. We open our facility to the public for guided tours, not to force our animals to entertain them, but to use our experience to educate people about the exotic pet trade and conservation efforts from a safe distance while allowing our animals to be the wild animals they were born to be.

We are also aware of who Carole Baskins is at Big Cat Rescue. We have worked with Big Cat Rescue in the past, as they are also a true sanctuary. We will continue to work with Big Cat Rescue because they are also working to put an end to the exotic pet trade. They are fellow members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and are also accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Although the docu-series focused on Carole Baskins’s past, we know the real marker of a true sanctuary is the willingness to adapt over time. Many sanctuaries got their start much like these roadside zoos in the 1990’s, with little funding or research on how to properly care for big cats. Back then, there was very little research on captive animals or how captivity and hands-on interaction was detrimental to their physical and mental health. As it became more popular to keep these dangerous wild animals in captivity, it quickly became apparent that it was not only dangerous for the humans but also damaging to the animals. Facilities, like Turpentine Creek and Big Cat Rescue, learned from this research and shifted our operational plan to no longer allow hands-on interaction, built bigger habitats, stopped taking animals off-site, adjusted how we fed the animals, incorporated better nutrition, created enrichment programs to help stimulate their minds, and hired educated individuals who went to college specifically to help these animals. We will continue to do so for as long as true sanctuaries like our own are needed. We will continue to do so until the day comes that true sanctuaries are no longer needed.

We encourage you to do your research before visiting any facility to make sure that they are not exploiting the animals and are providing them with safe, healthy environments. Thank you for being concerned about these beautiful animals and how they are cared for. We encourage all our supporters to visit our Advocacy page to learn how you can help put an end to the exploitation of big cats, end private ownership, and stop hands-on interaction with these magnificent animals. Learn more at

If you would like to learn more about what a true sanctuary is and how to tell one apart from a pseudo sanctuary you can visit our website at

If you would like to learn more about why cub-petting is detrimental to the health of big cats please visit

If you would like to learn more about Zoonotic diseases (much like COVID-19) please visit

If you would like to learn about Ligers and Tigons, that psudo sanctuaries breed only for profit, go to

If you would like to learn about white tigers and why they are not a separate subspecies and why they shouldn’t be bred in captivity you can at


Keeping It Pawsitive

Finding The Good In Each Day

March 25, 2020

Every day, at the end of our workday, our animal care team goes around and talks about their daily pawsitive. They each share one thing that happened during the day that made them smile, laugh, cry tears of joy, or just helped them make a bad day great. Some days this is easy to do, others it can take a little extra effort to find a positive through tears of sorrow, but every single day they share that pawsitive no matter how big or small it might be.

Right now, we feel that everyone needs a little pawsitive in their lives. We encourage our supporters to spend each day searching for that pawsitive and then sharing it on social media, sticky notes, phone calls, or whatever media you wish, with your friends and family. When you look for that pawsitive, spend each day waiting and wanting that, it can help make even the most difficult days just a little brighter.

Now, most of the time, our pawsitives revolve around our big cats “Daniel played with the enrichment I made” “Abigail chuffed at me” “Selbit grumbled and rolled over when I said hello” but they can be other things too “Today I got to spend a little extra time talking to my best friend” “My cat Gizmo gave me headbuts when I was feeling a little lonely” “I found a beautiful rock that just sparkled so brightly in the sunshine”. Your pawsitive is your own and can be a range of things that make you happy.

We hope that you will join us in our daily pawsitives, and perhaps even share your pawsitive with us through social media; we would love to hear them! Pawsitives don’t have to be about Turpentine Creek to share them, they can be about your kids, pets, house, rocks, you name it, if it makes you smile we want to hear about it!

We will continue to bring you fun, engaging, enriching content while we are temporarily closed to the public. We hope that with this, we can make your day a little more fun and positive. Please consider helping us through this financial hardship by donating the cost of admission, $25, so that we can keep providing our animals the best care possible.

Temporary Closure

Protecting Our Animals And The Humans Who Care For Them

March 18, 2020

For the first time in 28 years, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has shut our doors to the public. We will temporarily be closed at least until April 1, where we will reevaluate the situation and make the call whether we will reopen or continue to stay closed for another period of time. This was a very difficult decision for the Refuge to make. We are just coming out of winter, a time where we have few visitors and funds begin to run low. Usually, Spring Break visitors boost our funds to help us make it to the summer, when we have the most business. Over half of our income during March and April comes in through admissions and lodging. To shut our doors risks financial hardship during this time, but a larger risk is allowing visitors to come from all around the country and/or world and potentially expose our team to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Our top priority is caring for the 89 animals that call the Refuge home. Above everything else, we are a big cat rescue, that is our number one priority and it has to take precedence over all other things. If one person at the Refuge were to get the virus, the animals’ care would suffer and the entire team would be quarantined since we all interact in close quarters on a daily basis. If everyone were to get sick, who would care for the animals? Much like healthcare workers, we would continue to care for the animals despite our own health issues.

UPDATE: A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19 and many of the other big cats, including tigers and lions, are showing symptoms as well. We have taken even more precautions to protect our animals and team members from COVID-19 in recent days.

While we are closed to the public, our social media team, education team, and animal care team have been coming together to find ways to make sure our supporters get their daily dose of Turpentine Creek. We want all of our supporters to know that despite not being open to the public we are here and actively working to not only care for the animals but help make people’s days a little better.

Although we cannot come into your homes and fill it with boxes, scents, and spices, we are going to be offering digital visual enrichment for all of you in the form of extra videos on our social media accounts. This visual ‘enrichment’ should help make your time in quarantine and social isolation a little more engaging and fun. Feel free to join us and enjoy this human enrichment made by our team of enrichment experts.

At this point, most of the staff remains working on-site, if the situation progresses further we will move to remote work for the non-essential staff. If team members do get sick with the Coronavirus we will quarantine them to reduce the risk of exposure to the remaining staff and progress to a more restrictive schedule. No matter what, the animals will always receive the care that they need. They will be fed and watered daily. We are lucky enough to have a 60-day supply of food for our animal residents on-site and a reserve of food in a local cold-storage facility.

Together we will weather this storm, and we are lucky enough to have an amazing group of supporters who rally behind us when needed. They have already begun to step up and we know they will continue to support us to the best of their abilities until it is safe to reopen our doors. Thank you for your support, we will be seeing you virtually in the upcoming days and in-person once all of this settles down.

Events, Lodging, and Ticket Information

All events have been canceled for the next 8 weeks, including Kite Festival and Cats at the Castle, both events will be rescheduled at a later date in the year. If you have lodging reservations with us please reach out to lodging at or 479-253-5841 ext 1 to reschedule your visit. If you purchased any time tickets they will be valid until your next visit. If you purchased Groupon tickets we will honor them after expiration. Thank you for being so understanding during this time.

Social Live Video Schedule

  • Monday – 9am Education Live, 12pm Live Behind the Scenes, 2pm Keeper Chat live, 3pm Live Premier Tour
  • Tuesday – 9am Curator Cat Chat Live, 12pm Live Behind the Scenes, 3pm Education Live
  • Wednesday – 9am Education Live, 12pm Live Behind the Scenes, 2pm Keeper Chat live, 3pm Live Premier Tour
  • Thursday – 9am Education Live, 12pm Live Behind the Scenes, 3pm Live Premier Tour
  • Friday – 9am Education Live, 12pm Live Behind the Scenes, 2pm Keeper Chat live, 3pm Live Premier Tour

Things you can do to support the Refuge from home:

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Spring Break At TCWR and COVID 19 Precautions

March 10, 2020

Heather Klatt, DO Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is gearing up for Spring Break! Spring is the perfect time to visit, the weather is warming up, the animals are extremely active, and the Ozark’s bloom in a spectrum of colors! But, this year, many people are changing their plans because of the Coronavirus. As a nonprofit that relies on donations and visitors, we have been keeping a close eye on the spread of this disease. Luckily, we have a brand new board member who is a doctor. Dr. Heather Klatt has been keeping us up to date on the development of COVID 19 and advising us on the best way to keep our visitors healthy! But don’t take our word for it, Dr. Klatt has been kind enough to write a guest post specifically about COVID 19 and visiting the Refuge for spring break!

Hello TCWR friends and family. You may be wondering, with all the news about COVID 19, if it is safe to venture out of the house this Spring Break. Well, I have great news – a visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is just the thing to wipe away the winter blues and step into spring. You can have a safe, memorable visit if you follow some simple precautions.

The news and the internet are great resources. They help us communicate and receive information at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, it can also allow a lot of false news and sensationalized coverage to leak through. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to sift through all that news! The most recent news is COVID 19. What is true? What is the risk? Is it safe to travel? Here is some information to help you make the most of your Spring Break.

First of all, it is important to know that COVID 19 is a strain of the same virus that causes the common cold. It is a more virulent strain and is new in humans so it is getting a lot of attention. However, the method of transmission is the same as the common cold. COVID 19 has a mortality rate of between 1-2%. It is difficult to know exact numbers as individuals with mild cases are less likely to request medical care. It is a more serious illness than seasonal Influenza (the flu) but less severe than SARS (Medscape March 2020). Most fatalities have been in elderly people with multiple underlying medical conditions. (The Lancet, March 2020)

At this time, one person has been tested and is awaiting CDC results in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, which is over 233 miles away from Turpentine Creek. Twelve people have been tested and all have been negative. There are currently 100 individuals under observation. The states surrounding Arkansas have had a very small number of cases diagnosed (Centers of Disease Control, 3/9/2020). Should COVID-19 reach North West Arkansas, the following precautions can greatly reduce your risk of contracting COVID 19 should you come in contact with it:

  • The biggest precaution you can take is to wash your hands. It is recommended that you wash your hands after using the restroom, prior to eating or drinking, prior to taking medication or using eye drops, after sneezing or coughing and after being in a public setting. It is advised you wash with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, containing at least 60% alcohol, are the next best measure but soap and water remain the most effective method (Dr. Richard Watkins, MD, Infectious Disease).
  • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and politely request others do the same.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • At this time, the CDC does not recommend wearing face masks unless you are already ill.
  • If you are ill, it is recommended you stay home as your immune system will be compromised making it harder for you to fight off illness, including COVID 19.

Overall, the risk of contracting COVID 19 during a visit to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is extremely low. It is an outdoor activity with plenty of fresh air and few indoor publicly shared surfaces or spaces. Even those areas are low risk with the precautions above. I hope you will make plans to come to see your favorite cat, bear, coatimundi or Rhesus Macaque! We look forward to seeing you!

Heather Klatt, DO Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Have you decided to just not take the risk to travel for your Spring Break? Please consider using a portion of your Spring Break budget to help the animals at the Refuge! Your donation goes 100% towards the care of our animals and helps keep the Refuge running! Donate the cost of admission ($25) and help us save lives!

You can also visit the Rogers -Lowell Chamber of Commerce Page for information about how surrounding communities are monitoring the virus in our area. 

Remington and Luna Update

Settling In and Wellness Exam

March 5, 2020

Remington and Luna were rescued by Turpentine Creek and PETA arriving at their forever home on January 16th, after three years of waiting in legal limbo. These beautiful tigers spent the first few months of their lives being forced to swim with people for money.

The dynamic duo has spent the last month exploring their habitat, learning the new daily routine, and being spoiled with plenty of treats and fun enrichment. The team reports that both Remington and Luna are thriving here at the Refuge.

Luna loves to say hi to visitors, especially children, stalking and chuffing happily as they pass by. She also has a fascination with her new bear neighbor, Thunder, who she will stalk every chance she gets, spending large portions of her day at the top of the habitat where she can observe him. She enjoys her provided enrichment but also likes to find her own enrichment through sticks, which are plentiful in her tree-filled habitat.

Remington is a big fan of treats and meals. He makes sure to never miss one and will come running as soon as he hears the truck that brings him dinner. He also enjoys enrichment and taking naps on his new bench.

Both Remington and Luna have a clean bill of health, are fully up on their vaccinations, and are eating well. Our Animal Curator, Emily, has been closely observing the pair and is still hopeful that we might be able to introduce them eventually.

On Sunday, the animal care team took Remington down to our on-site veterinary hospital for a checkup and to neuter him, the first necessary step if we ever want to attempt an introduction.

The neutering went well and gave us the opportunity to do a full wellness exam on Remington. Overall, he is a very healthy male white tiger. As he heals from the surgery he will be confined in his night house. This allows us to keep a closer eye on his surgical site for infection and make sure he has a clean area away from dirt during his healing process. After about a week, he will be let back into his habitat.

We are excited to have Remington and Luna here with us, where they will finally get the chance to be real tigers and enjoy their own little piece of freedom. It is only with your help we can continue to provide a lifetime of care for animals like Remington and Luna.