Monthly Archives: May 2021

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Assists Federal Government in Rescue of Sixty Eight Big Cats from Tiger King Park

Thirteen Exotic Cats Safe at TCWR’s GFAS-Accredited Sanctuary

May 28, 2020

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge [TCWR] assisted the Federal Government in rescuing sixty-eight big cats from Jeffery (Jeff) and Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park previously owned by so-called “Tiger King,” Joe Exotic.

In January, a federal judge ordered the Lowes to surrender all big cat cubs in their possession under the age of one-years-old, as well as the mothers of the cubs, to the government, who has worked with sanctuaries and other animal welfare agencies to find safe homes for them. This comes after the judge “found that the United States had a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims that the Lowes had violated the Endangered Species Act, as well as the Animal Welfare Act.” 

A press release from the Department of Justice [DOJ]  listed that, “failure to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition, and timely veterinary care resulted in harm to a number of animals, including the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart,” and that the Lowes had a “pattern and practice of providing substandard care” to animals at their park. The release also noted that the Lowes put their animals in danger, under the Animal Welfare Act, by failing to have a qualified attending veterinarian employed at the park. 

Last week, the remaining Big Cats (of various ages and species) were seized after the Lowes were deemed non-compliant with court orders to increase the quality of care they were providing their animals. This was following three inspections since December 2020, which concluded the Lowe’s failed “to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior.” 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was contacted by the DOJ to assist in the rescue. Team members made two trips to Oklahoma, bringing back 13 animals total. They assisted in the transport of 8 animals to other GFAS-accredited sanctuaries and facilitated the placement of other felines at refuges within the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance [BCSA]. The BCSA is comprised of accredited sanctuaries who are working together to rescue big cats in need and advocate for the betterment of their futures. 

The twelve big cats (which include lions, tigers, a liger and a li-liger) and jaguar are undergoing medical examinations by TCWR’s staff veterinarian.

TCWR President Tanya Smith, who has been silently working with the DOJ and BCPSA for months to facilitate the rescue, says she is grateful the animals are safe at proper facilities now. She views the Court’s ruling and DOJ’s recent seizure as a win not only for the 68 big cats directly affected, but also for other big cats who may benefit from the precedent set by this case. 

Please consider making a donation to support the cost of the rescue. You can support the start of their new lives by making a donation at

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is an animal sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. As a “true sanctuary,” they do not buy, sell, trade, or breed animals, but rather, provide a lifetime home to animals who have faced non-conservational for-profit breeding and other forms of abuse at the hands of private owners. Aside from providing the highest of care for the animals that find their forever home with them, key aspects of their mission includes education and advocacy with a goal of “ending the Big Cat Trade in our lifetime” and as a result, ceasing the need for places like the Refuge to even exist. TCWR has been a voice for animals for almost 30 years and has spent years advocating for the passage of The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 263 S.1210.

For updates on the new rescues’ journey, please “Like” Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Facebook, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @turpentinecreek, subscribe to their Youtube channel, and sign up for their weekly e-newsletter at 

To view the press release from the Department of Justice, please click here.

Experience the Magic of Spring at Turpentine Creek

Blooming Flowers, Bam Bam’s Waterfall Showers

May 22, 2021

TCWR is alive with the sights and sounds of springtime! In addition to the enthusiastic roars, chuffs, and grrrrrrs, so commonly heard at our refuge, wrens are trilling, chipmunks are scurrying (away from big cats!) and an array of scented herbs and native plantings are bursting forth to greet the day! The gentle spring sun is warming the earth, and the scent of blooms weighs heavily in the air!

Now that our bear residents have emerged from their winter torphor, all our animal residents are awake and ready to soak up the milder spring days! Bam Bam the grizzly, especially, adores the warmer months where his pool is full and more guests are flocking to see him! Additionally, each season gives us opportunities to spice up enrichment routines, and Spring is no exception. While supporters are kind enough to donate dried herbs for scent enrichment all year long, we’re fortunate to have a garden complete with fragrant flora. These fresh herbs are a true treat to entice the sniffers of every big cat and bear.

A quick survey of our Animal Enrichment Garden reveals an assortment of Salvias and Mints sprouting, from Chocolate, to Traditional, to Spearmint… and of course the ever-popular Catmint! Additional emerging perennials include Oregano and Thyme; and what herb garden would be complete without Lavender? We also find the ultra-aromatic Wild Bergamot, more commonly known as Bee-Balm, a butterfly and hummingbird favorite! This patch of herbaceous olfactory delights for our big cats is encircled by a bed of Roses and Day-Lillies, and accented by an occasional volunteer Bronze Fennel, from years gone by.

The other plants blooming across our beautiful slice of “Africa in the Ozarks” serve a purpose, too! Not only do they show off the beautiful Arkansas scenery, but they support native wildlife. We know the importance of biodiversity and many of our plants cater to vanishing pollinators: butterflies and bees! Our Education Team is comprised of Wildlife Interpreters who know which flowers are best for these creatures.

A quick stroll around the corner reveals a garden pond, now abloom with delicately colored flowers, cheerfully bobbing and swooning above the darkly colored lilly pads, that provide shade to the bright orange Coy fish playing below. To one side of the pond sits a raised flower bed, recently-planted with Native Perennials by our Education staff. Newly introduced plant varieties include:


  • Brunnera macrophylla, which goes by several common names, including Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not, and Brunnera. It has a slightly mottled leaf, with tiny blue flowers that dance high above its leaves.


  • Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is a member of the Asteraceae family, and is native to most of the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico, and makes a bright cheerful addition to any native perennial garden. 


  • Aster oblongifolius, more commonly referred to as Aromatic Aster, Shale Barren Aster, or even Wild Blue Aster, is highly attractive to native bees and butterflies. It is an essential nectar source for pollinating insects preparing for winter, as it tends to bloom when few other nectar sources are available. 


  • Rattlesnake Master is one of the host plants of the Black Swallowtail! It’s Latin name, Eryngium yuccifolium, comes from the fact that its leaves look very much like a Yucca plant. Other common names include Button Snakeroot, Yucca-leaf Eryngo, Corn Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Flag, and Rattlesnake Weed. Despite all of it’s snake-related names, it neither attracts or repels them, but instead gets its names from its supposed anti-venom properties!


  • Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), are native to North America and one of the most popular wildflowers grown. They typically occur in open woods, prairies, fields, roadsides and disturbed areas. 


  • Milk weed: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of about 115 species that occur in the Americas, and is the larval host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of this plant!


  • Mexican Hat is also known as Upright Prairie Coneflower & Long-headed Coneflower. It’s Latin Name is Ratibida columnaris, and it is a member of the Asteraceae family. It gets its name from its distinctive shape; a tall cone surrounded by drooping petals that look somewhat like a sombrero. Its foliage, deeply cleft leaves near the base, has a strong odor that is reported to work as a deer repellent!


In addition to finding newly- emerging plants, experiencing enticing natural aromas, and breathtaking panoramic views, you can be sure your springtime visit to TCWR will include seeing Bam Bam’s pool water level at its fullest… His waterfall blasting forth… and Bam Bam (the ham ham) all too eager to greet our guests!

Bam Bam says “Let the fun begin!”

A Deep Dive Into the Texas Tiger Situation

What it Means for Big Cat Ownership

It’s impossible to miss the latest news coming out of Houston, Texas. A tiger was filmed in a neighborhood last Sunday. We would like to address some of the most commonly asked questions we received after posting the story to our Facebook page, as well as summarize why this points to a greater need for federal legislation regarding big cat ownership. 

Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger? 

Officers typically aren’t trained to handle situations involving these apex predators here in the U.S., where such animals are not native.

Law enforcement officials are tasked to protect the public when an animal is on the loose. This means doing whatever possible to keep people safe. 

What about tranquilizing the animal? 

Sedating an animal is actually a tricky process. When sedating for medical procedures at TCWR, we have to match the dosage to the animal’s weight and wait for ideal temperatures to actually perform the sedation. If an officer decides to tranq the animal, it could still prove fatal to the tiger or lion because there is no way to get a proper weight or control the temperature in such random situations. If too much sedation is used, the animal will overdose. If it’s too cold out, the animal’s organs will shut down. 

Another barrier to tranquilizing in these situations involves the amount of adrenaline the animal is producing. If the animal is stressed, it will metabolize the sedation at a rapid rate. Its stress might come from the unfamiliar situation the animal finds itself in (being outdoors for the first time, hearing traffic, the commotion it senses). This rapid metabolization will also occur if the animal has attacked any “prey.” Once again, this could result in the animal’s demise from a tranq overdose. 

This leads us into a discussion of the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263). Why do we need to regulate the private ownership of these animals? 

Danger to the Public

“Ramos had no idea a man charged with murder was living next door to him in this family-friendly community — and with a tiger, no less.” 

This quote, in which Joe Ramos expressed his shock, can be found in one of the earlier news pieces about the tiger roaming the Houston, TX, neighborhood. (It should be noted that Ramos’s next-door neighbor in question, Victor Hugo Cuevas, is allegedly not the owner of the tiger.) 

You’ve likely observed us getting stalked and pounced at through the fence when turning our backs to a big cat. It’s a natural instinct. The way they hunt and even “play” is dangerous. Imagine living in a family-friendly community, letting your children out to play then having them attacked by an apex predator. Imagine taking a stroll to your mailbox and getting mauled by a tiger. It sounds bizarre and like the plot of a bad movie, but the truly bizarre thing is how easily it could happen. 

Danger to Law Enforcement/ First Responders

With animal attacks, law enforcement and EMTs need to access the injured/dead person. The fact that someone has to respond to this incident is now putting more people at risk. The situation is even more complicated if the attack happens inside a home. In this case, it can be hard for first responders to visualize what is happening before they enter and even harder to tranquilize the animal. How will they get to the victim? How will they do it safely? 

Danger to the Animal

Tigers are predators. It’s unfair to force them to be anything but that. By privately owning these animals, people are putting them in a situation where following their natural instincts can be a death sentence. If you haven’t yet, please read the section titled “Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger?” for an explanation of why sedation doesn’t always work. 

How will sanctuaries handle the influx of animals if the Big Cat Public Safety Act Passes?

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is not removing animals from anyone’s care. People who currently own big cats will be grandfathered in. The current legislation would only ban cub-petting. At no point has the law mandated the removal of animals from their current owners, as long as they meet the minimum requirements for their animal’s care and housing. 

How will law enforcement handle owners who turn their animals loose if the bill passes? 

The answer to this question applies to the answer above. While there have been incidents of people turning wild animals loose out of anger, anyone who does this would do so regardless of the bill passing due to their own irresponsibility and selfishness. 

How can you help?