BB King and his brother

BB King and his brother go au naturel

Monday, January 30, 2012


What’s this stuff? — BB King and Mack cautiously leave a cement-floored cage to put their paws on soft grass for the first time since they were small cubs. The brothers were released into the natural habitat at Turpentine Creek last week. Photo submitted

During the 2008 Eureka Springs Blues Weekend, several volunteers and musicians were touring Turpentine Creek when they learned a tigress which had recently been rescued by Turpentine Creek had given birth to three tiger cubs, two of which survived.

The refuge allowed the group to adopt one of the cubs, and they named him for the King of the Blues, BB King.

Early on, BB and his brother, Mack, faced some physical challenges. They were eventually taken to Kansas State University for tests, where X-rays showed multiple micro-fractures. The brothers were diagnosed with a mineral deficiency that resulted in bone density problems.


Ta Daaaaaa — BB King settles into his new habitat like the jungle royalty he is. Photo submitted

It was a long and expensive process, including vitamins, supplements and rest, but the cats are now healthy. In the intervening years, BB and Mack spent most of their time in one of the main compound cages when they weren’t on tour. As ambassadors of the refuge, they went to schools and libraries to help explain why big cats don’t make good pets.

But BB and Mack always had to go back in the cage, unable to run and play in the grass like they did when they were cubs. All that changed last Saturday when BB and Mack were released into their new natural habitat.

This year Turpentine Creek hopes to open two more habitats, giving even more big cats a chance to live the rest of their long lives enjoying roaming and playing in a natural setting. Charles and Lori Ragsdell, producers of the Eureka Springs Blues Festival hope to help raise enough to fund a new habitat this year, but can only do so if the shows sell out.

That and the Blues Foundation’s HART Fund to help musicians in need are two good reasons (other than the great music) to buy advance tickets for the May 31– June 3 Blues Weekend. There’s a fantastic lineup of artists, along with the winning band from the International Blues Challenge.

A limited number of VIP Weekend Passes are on sale now, and General Admission Weekend Passes go on sale Feb. 1. Both include admission to a new Sunday afternoon Blues Picnic at Turpentine Creek, with an all star jam.

For more info, please visit For more info about The HART Fund, see To learn more about Turpentine Creek, please visit An AETN video about Turpentine Creek can be found on YouTube.

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