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Our History


Why TCWR was Formed

In 1978, Don Jackson, a former Dallas Zoo employee, and his wife, Hilda, and their daughter, Tanya, acquired a lion cub named Bum. The lion cub was used as payment on a debt owed to a friend of the Jacksons. After a time, the gentleman realized he could not care for the animal as it needed and reached out to the Jacksons for help. The Jackson family built a large enclosure in their backyard and began caring for the young lion. After receiving Bum, they took in another lion named Sheila.

cats in transporter

A Turn of Events

The Jackson’s backyard was home to Bum and Sheila for over ten years. They knew their backyard could offer only so much for exercise with the limited space and spoke with a friend who owned property near Eureka Springs. What turned the tide was the appearance of a woman on their doorstep in 1991. Catherine Twiss was an infamous breeder and black-market dealer running from the law. The more significant issue was that she had 42 lions, tigers, and cougars crammed inside three cattle cars on a farm not far from where the Jacksons lived. The Jacksons could not turn their backs; they had to help these animals.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is Born

Almost overnight, the Jacksons moved their newly acquired rescued family along with Bum and Sheila and headed for the 460-acre ranch in the wondrous hills of the Ozarks. Over the next year, they built the sanctuary that would become Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Word of their work spread, and they began receiving calls from private owners all around the country. They learned of these cats’ abuse, neglect, and abandonment and realized this issue was more severe than first thought. Don and Hilda sold everything they had, bought the ranch, and dedicated their lives to the care and safety of these big cats.