New Adventures

First Pawsteps onto Grass

September 19, 2018

Wednesday morning was an adventure for our two, not so little, Serval kittens. Sammy and Enzo, who were rescued in July in New York, have grown quickly since arrival. The once underweight Serval boys are now tipping the scales at over 16 pounds each.

Making room for the two young rescues, until we can build their new habitat, has been a bit of a challenge. At first, we were hoping to move a few of our Bobcats down to rescue ridge and give Sammy and Enzo a habitat in the Discovery Area, but the Bobcats decided they liked where they lived and didn’t feel like moving. Then we had the thought to introduce them to our older three servals, but we knew to do this we would need to wait until Sammy and Enzo were old enough to be neutered. Sammy and Enzo deserve to have grass under their paws, and the progress for the introduction was slow going. Instead, the animal care team decided, to move them into the habitat we had originally prepped for the Bobcats down at Rescue Ridge. We knew that this area would be a less stressful way to introduce them to the sights, sounds, and scents around the refuge.

Sammy and Enzo were cautious at first when they were let out into the habitat. Enzo was very brave and quickly began exploring their new home, but Sammy took a little longer to figure out what the tall green stuff was. By the time the team decided to take them back to the vet hospital for the evening, they both seemed much more comfortable with their new habitat. Loud vehicles still spook the duo, but luckily, there is less traffic down at Rescue Ridge then there is up in the public area. With time they will get used to the daily sounds of their home.

Once the new 5,000 sq ft habitat is finished on the habitat tour loop, we will then attempt to introduce our newest rescues to our three older Servals in that habitat. Our current Serval habitat is not large enough to comfortably house five servals. Construction on the Serval habitat will move forward once we have completed the bear habitats. It shouldn’t be too long before our older servals, and our new rescues are introduced to their new home.

For now, you can see our Serval kittens in their enclosure down at Rescue Ridge during one of our exclusive behind the scenes tours. Get more information on the Carnivore Caravan or Coffee with the Curator tours here.

Sipping for Sanctuary

Inaugural Event

September 13, 2018

On Thursday, September 6, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge hosted our first ever Sipping for Sanctuary. The free event was held in a beautiful venue at Sassafras Springs Vineyard in Springdale Arkansas. Sipping for Sanctuary was a free event to help promote Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and our new membership tier program. We were astounded at the response from our community, and our 200 person limit was quickly filled through RSVPs.

The night kicked off with a live band, Red Ambition, playing toe-tapping songs and keeping the atmosphere upbeat and fun. Delicious heavy hors-d’oeuvres were served by Victor Smith with Catered Creations.

We also had a live artist, Amy Eichler, that spent the evening painting a one of a kind portrait of Shasta, one of our beautiful tigers at the Refuge. At the end of the event, Amy’s Shasta painting was live auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going to Turpentine; she also donated 30% of any sales she made at the event to Turpentine.

At the end of the evening, Turpentine Creek had raised $8,586 to help the animals that call the refuge home. Over all, it was an amazing first-year event. The room was filled with supporters and potential supporters, who were given the opportunity to learn about the Refuge directly from the passionate people who dedicate their lives to helping the animals to create a wonderful life for every animal that calls Turpentine Creek home.

We are ecstatic at the support and turnout of Sipping for Sanctuary; we look forward to planning next year’s event. Please continue to watch our blog and social media accounts for announcements about next year’s event. Also, we encourage everyone to take a moment to learn more about our new membership tiers levels.  Help us, help them.

Growing Up Wild at Heart

Serval Rescues Update

September 5, 2018

Our two young serval rescues, Sammy and Enzo, are growing quickly! The two little serval boys came to us from New York in July, weighing only 2.8 and 3.8 lbs, both were malnourished and underweight. Now, two short months later, they both weigh in at over 15lbs! Their diet has progressed from a slurry of milk and ground meat to a full diet of meat with the bones pre-crushed and a little milk. They are growing so quickly right before our eyes. We are happy to report that even though Sammy came to us with severe metabolic bone disease, a high calcium diet seems to have helped him grow and develop into a strong cub. Although when rescued Sammy was smaller than his brother, he is now larger than Enzo.

Recently, Sammy and Enzo were introduced to the outside world. They now spend a few hours a day in the night house attached to our current serval habitat. They will be spending time getting used to their new environment before we attempt to introduce them to the other 3 servals that live at the refuge. Both boys will also need to be neutered before we introduce them to Giselle, Bowden, and Whistler.

To this point, both cubs have spent their whole lives living indoors. The new outdoor experience has been interesting, to say the least. As soon as the pair was put into their new night house Savannah, a lioness, began to carol; Sammy and Enzo were not too sure that the liked their new noisy neighbor. Every day they spend a little more time outside and spend the night in our veterinary hospital, with hopes that in a few weeks they will be ready to live outside permanently.

Soon, all five of our servals will be living together in the habitat, but this will not be their permanent place of residence. Plans and construction on a new, bigger, serval habitat have already begun. This habitat will be located on the habitat tour loop where the old cougar habitat was. The habitat will be built so that it can not only accommodate servals but any type of cat that needs a heated night house and roof. The new habitat will have an attached 15×30 feet heated night house building, 4×2 inch wiring, a roof, and plenty of vertical spaces for animals to climb and jump on. In the future, the habitat could be used to house servals, bobcats, cougars, leopards, or even young big cat cubs. It will be a versatile space to help us continue rescuing all types of exotic felines in need.

Thank you for your support. Sammy and Enzo are both still in need of a few adopters and a sponsor. If you would like to adopt or sponsor Sammy and Enzo please visit our adoption and sponsorship page.

Volunteer Experience

A Visitor Volunteer Perspective of TCWR

Waking up to Lions caroling and watching tigers play in the early morning are two experiences I am sure to miss when I leave Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

For a number of years, I have followed few of the big cat rescue groups in social media always marveling at the photos and videos of these magnificent creatures and the tremendous work done by the people who look after them. I was delighted when I saw there was an opportunity to be with these cats in person and knew in my heart that it was something I could not pass.

So I packed my bags and started my adventure in Singapore with another fellow animal lover Nicole. After 30 hours of flying, we were greeted by Hannah our very lovely host at the airport. We were first taken to our accommodation on site and from the get-go I was impressed. I will let the photos do the talking but you’d agree that these tents look pretty awesome.

On top of the glamping tents, there are wide of variety of accommodations options that cater for all needs. Best of all its pet-friendly, so if you can, do bring your pooch along ☺ For more information about accommodation opportunities visit TCWR website

So here is what we got up to during our stay here.

Guided tour

We went on a guided tour given by the Wildlife interpreter Hannah. These tours are a great way to learn about each of the animals, why they are in the refuge, the multitude of problems caused by people keeping exotic animals as pets and the entertainment industry (cub petting, taking selfies, circus, and movies). While I was really excited to see these animals up close ‘well as close as you should get to a wild animal’ I was sadden by the depth of issues. The numerous health problems suffered due to inbreeding, cubs been taken away from mothers too early and to know there are more of these magnificent creatures living in captivity than in the wild. Learn more

Getting our hands dirty

The animals at TCWR eat up to 500-700 pounds a day. That is a lot of food prep. Each animal also gets a mix of medication and supplements based on their individual needs that are mixed into their food. Nicole and I got the opportunity to help out preparing the food which was a lot of fun. Even though TCWR is a big cat refuge they also have few bears who needed forever homes. We help with the construction of the new bear enclosures. We were lucky to be in the refuge during the World lion day. We helped to make enrichment for the cats and watch them play with it. Yes, they do play like your house cat but the difference is they will eat you <> I was reminded of this every day by Lakota one of the Ti-linger who stalked me – I suspect due to my knee injury.

A bit about the team

The animal care staff work rain, sunshine or snow to take care of these animals. Their days include cleaning the enclosures, feeding the animals, food prep, building enclosures.

The refuge also has a veterinary hospital that they perform medical care. This facility is really important given the health issues these animals have due to abuse in captivity.

Another very important aspect at TCRW is education and outreach. Lack of awareness is a significant reason why people keeping wild animals in captivity, cub pet or take selfies. Education is an important way to raise awareness among the community and hopefully put a stop to the abuse that these animal go through.


In the short time I spent in TCWR I learned many things and there are things we can all do to help these animals.

  • Visit a true sanctuary Cub petting, taking selfies, seeing them perform is riddled with abuse and cruelty. These animals are not pets and breeding in captivity don’t help conservation. When you are planning to include an animal encounter on your next holiday please do your research and make sure you only visit true sanctuaries.
  • We can make a difference every day One of the biggest threats to big cats in the wild is habitat loss due to deforestation. Palm oil is one of the industries that have a significant impact on habitats Tigers live in. By purchasing Palm oil-free and/or sustainable products we can make a huge difference to the plight of these animals in the wild.

Finally, was the 30 hours of flying worth it. For me, it has been an experience I would remember forever. But don’t take my word for it pack your bags and see it for yourself. For more pictures, visit

You don’t have to travel across the world to volunteer at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, even locals can get the experience of a lifetime helping at Turpentine Creek by signing up to volunteer. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer page. 

Written By: Dharani Perera – US Big Cats Volunteer – Animal Encounter Wildlife Tours – Singapore

Ethical Tourism Destination

Creating a Better World One Vacation at a Time

August 20, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is hard at work to change the lives of not only our animals but our visitors! Changing the mindset and helping people make ethical choices when planning their vacation starts right here. Before most people plan a vacation, they do a little research to find the best, most fun, exciting, and affordable places to make their get-aways memorable.

Luckily, the mindset of many travelers is shifting. A new term “Ethical Tourism” has been popping up more often in the travel industry. Ethical Tourism means thinking about the consequences of your actions as a tourist on the ecosystem, environment, wildlife, local people, and local economy. Finding Ethical Tourism Destinations when planning a trip means you are helping others, while still getting the chance to have a wonderful vacation.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge works hard to be an Ethical Tourism Destination. Our hourly tours not only allow our visitors to see exotic animals but also educates the public about the plight of big cats in captivity. Our new education initiative expands on that with additional programs and activities scheduled throughout the week, that also talk about wildlife and environmental conservation. Entry fees, lodging costs, and gift shop sales help to keep Turpentine Creek running so that 100% of donations can be put directly towards the care of the animals living at the refuge. We are a hands-off facility, making sure we are always doing what is best for the animals that call the Refuge home.

There are dozens of “sanctuaries”, “zoos”, and “rescues” around the country touting their rescued animals and letting visitors get up close and personal with their big cat residents. They allow people to pet their big cats or get photos with cubs. Places like these do not worry about the safety of their animals or the public; the money they bring in doesn’t help the animals. Many times, big cats are bred to produce enough cubs for the cub-petting industry until they die, only for those cubs to die from health complications, be transitioned into their breeding program, or be sold as a pet or into the trophy hunting industry. Places like these are NOT Ethical Tourism Destinations since it only has a negative impact on the animals’ lives.

Before planning a trip to any sanctuary, zoo, or rescue facility, do some research. Make sure that you are traveling with a purpose and search for Ethical Tourism Destinations when you are planning your next vacation.

International Volunteer Groups

Ethical Travel Awareness

August 13, 2018

International advocacy and awareness for the exotic pet trade is extremely important to bridge the gap between countries and solve global problems with exploitation of wildlife. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has paired up with an international ecotourism company, Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, to create a volunteer program for all students, providing the opportunity to learn about the plight of exotic big cats in the United States.

Traveling all the way from Singapore to Arkansas, our volunteer group consists of the lead organizer Nicole and colleague Dee, both very passionate about the ethical treatment of animals and environmental tourism. Nicole and Hannah, TCWR’s Wildlife Interpreter, had met previously during an animal-centric internship in 2014, in South Africa. Their friendship grew based off of environmental advocacy and a passion for being a voice for wildlife around the world.

The dedicated volunteers spent their stay in Bam Bam’s Bungalow, for a full-on Turpentine Creek experience full of lion carols. Their days consisted of learning about the plight of exotic pets throughout the United States, and in-depth discussions about the connection between issues within Asia and the U.S. They joined tours, helped to educate the public during World Lion Day about lion conservation and life history, and volunteered with the animal care team building bear habitats and prepping animal diets.

The ability to create international awareness in invaluable to TCWR’s mission to fight the exotic pet trade and save big cats and exotic animals from the pet trade. By hosting international students and volunteers, TCWR is able to create many more voices for big cats in need. The first volunteer group has brought many important ideas for the education department and improving our volunteer program. They will be writing a blog of their experience, and what they both have learned and valued during their time here. TCWR is excited to continue to work with international volunteers and make a difference for students and animals throughout the world.

You don’t have to be from another country to volunteer and help out the animals at Turpentine Creek, you can sign up to volunteer now on our Volunteer page!


Small Cat Rescue Update

Growing and Getting Stronger

July 20, 2018

Turpentine Creek’s newest residents are making strides towards recovery. The two young male servals and one male savannah cat are still in quarantine at our vet hospital for the time being, but we hope within a few weeks they will be healthy enough to move into their new habitats.

Our savannah cat introduced himself as Tigger when our veterinarian Dr. Anne Brenneke came to the refuge to run a full health exam on him. Tigger is a healthy 3-year-old male that weighs 12lbs. We did discover that he had been declawed on all four paws before his arrival at the Refuge, so we will be monitoring him closely for signs of discomfort or arthritis in the future.

Our little serval males are growing stronger by the day. The littlest male has gained over 1lb since his arrival. The blood tests on his ionized calcium levels also came back very low, which indicates that he has Metabolic Bone Disease. X-rays did show that this little male had a fracture on his back left leg due to the Metabolic Bone Disease.

Our large male serval also gained nearly a pound and is very energetic. His ionized calcium levels were not nearly as low as his brother’s but still low enough that we are monitoring him. He loves to pounce and play all day, and we are excited to see how much he has grown in the short time he has been with us. We also found that both serval boys have ringworm on their ears, so we have begun treatment for that as well.

Although the two young serval brothers have yet to be named, we are hopeful to announce soon how we will go about naming them. We appreciate all the encouragement and donations from our supporters since the rescue. Please continue to donate and spread the word about the reality of the exotic pet trade in the USA.

Keeper Week 2018

Team Work #IAmAKeeper

July 16, 2018

July 15-21 is the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) National Zoo Keeper Week. As a member of the AAZK, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is excited to be celebrating the week with our fellow animal keepers around the country! Our team spends the year dedicating themselves to making sure all the animals that call the Refuge home receives the best care possible.

This year’s theme for National Zoo Keeper Week is teamwork. Providing quality care for nearly 100 animals takes a lot of people doing various tasks. Our animal care team provides direct support to the animals by feeding, cleaning, creating enrichment, building habitats, and more. Our maintenance team keeps vehicles running, helps build habitats, fixes plumbing issues, and does general upkeep of the Refuge. Our office team fundraises, communicates information to the public and our supporters, and maintains memberships/adoptions/sponsorships. The lodging team offers a unique experience to our overnight visitors, creating a closer connection with supporters. Our gift shop team is the first and last people visitors see; they provide quality customer service, telling guests about our the Refuge and our mission. Finally, our new education department helps to spread the word about our mission and educate future generations about the plight of big cats in captivity. It takes every person on our team to keep the Refuge running smoothly. Get to know our dedicated team members by visiting our Meet our team page. 

As a way to show appreciation to the team for all their hard work, we have planned a week-long celebration for Keeper Week! Through donations from local businesses, board members, and a supporter, we have planned fun activities for the team each day of Keeper Week.

  • Sunday – Lunch donated by Subway in Eureka Springs, AR.
  • Monday – Breakfast Cooked by Victor Smith (TCWR Maintenance team head and owner of Catered Creations)
  • Tuesday – Lunch of Hamburgers, and Hotdogs by Harts in Eureka Springs & Veggie Burgers by Eureka Market
  • Wednesday – Breakfast by Dunkin Donuts in Rogers, AR
  • Thursday – Pizza – donated by CiCis Pizza in Fayetteville, AR
  • Friday – Ice cream social & party – Donated by a supporter
  • Saturday – Cake by Cravings by Rochelle in Eureka Springs, AR

Keeper Week isn’t just about celebrating the hard work of our team. It is about showing appreciation and improving morale. The animals might not be able to verbally thank everyone for what they do, but we want to thank all TCWR team members (both past and present) for dedicating their lives to the mission. It is only with their help that we can continue to rescue and provide lifetime homes for so many animals. Your donations help us provide the best quality care for the animals that call the Refuge home, donate now and help us, help them.

Three New Rescues

Arrive at Turpentine Creek

July 10, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has three new animal residents! Early Friday morning, two vehicles arrived at the Refuge after an 18-hour road trip that began in Buffalo New York. Within the two vehicles were seven animals ready to start their new lives. Three, two young 12-week-old servals and one three-year-old Savannah Cat, had arrived at their final destination, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The other four, two servals and two caracals, would be continuing on to their new home at Safe Haven in Nevada. Turpentine Creek worked with seven agencies, including law enforcement and World Animal Protection, to complete the rescue.

The seven animals were rescued from a man who had allegedly been selling them as pets, which is illegal in the state of New York. Information on the rescue is limited due to the fact that it is still an active investigation. We will release more details after the investigation is concluded.

The older male a Savannah Cat was doing well enough upon arrival but the two young male servals were in poor body condition, underweight, lethargic, and diarrhea. They both needed immediate veterinary care and were taken to be examined by our Veterinarian Dr. Anne Brenneke at St. Francis Veterinary Clinic.

The healthiest of the two young servals weighed in at 3.8 lbs and has low bone density due to improper diet. The smaller of the two only weighed 2.8 lbs, has a slight infection, worms, anemia, and low bone density due to improper diet. Both babies are now on a nutrient-rich diet, being treated for coccidia and giardia, receiving medication to help with diarrhea, and the smallest is also on antibiotics and deworming medication.

All three rescues are scheduled for a follow up on Wednesday, July 11, to check their health progress. Dr. Brenneke has been consulted over the phone twice a day for verbal check-ups and both are improving daily. At this point, Dr. Brenneke says the prognosis for both young servals is looking good.

They will be staying in our onsite veterinary hospital in quarantine until further notice. Once they have been given a clean bill of health by our veterinarian they will be moved to their new habitats for the public to see.

As of right now, none of the new rescues have names. Watch our social media for more information on the naming process, adoptions/sponsorships, and updates on animal health. You can donate now to help us give these new rescues a wonderful life with us and help us continue rescuing animals in need.

Territorial Relocation

Moving Poncho

July 2, 2018

This past weekend, we made the decision to separate Poncho and Montana, two of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s largest tiger residents. Poncho and Montana came to Turpentine together in 2016, during the Colorado Project. These beautiful boys are 8-year-old brothers that tip the scales at nearly 600 lbs each. The brothers have had their issues in the past but recently they have escalated to the point that we knew they could no longer live together.

Since Montana appeared to be the more dominant of the duo, it was decided to relocate Poncho to another habitat. We took a chance and put him next to Colby, one of our more relaxed tigers. The pair hit it off immediately, chuffing at each other and rubbing against the fence between them. Both Poncho and Colby seem to enjoy the company. They will always have a fence between them but they can spend their days chuffing and chatting. Montana also seems to be really enjoying having the habitat all to himself. He has spent his days marking everything as his and sleeping in the sunshine.

The separation of these two males is not a big surprise to the team. Wild tigers, especially males, are solo animals and very territorial. It is due to these territorial instincts that we do not introduce tigers that were not living together when they were rescued. Montana and Poncho have lived together all their lives, but as they’ve aged their instinct to claim their own territory has become stronger. We had tried to curb some of these instincts by neutering both boys but it was only a temporary fix.

Now that the pair has been separated they both appear to be happier. The boys will spend the rest of their lives living in separate habitats, but as tigers, the single life seems to be the purrfect fit for them.

Next time you visit, make sure to take a tour so you can see both boys enjoying their habitats. Montana is still located beside the office and lodging suites while Poncho and his friend Colby are on the back side of the tour loop.