The Real Lion King

Lions at TCWR

July 18, 2019

As Disney releases The Lion King on Friday, July 19th, we are shining a spotlight our lions that call Turpentine Creek a forever home. Throughout the week our 5 lions will be celebrated and have a day dedicated to them, consisting of educational programs about the species along with enrichment toy making for all of the lions in their forever home.

Across the United States and around the world lions are being kept as pets, used in roadside zoos, entertainment such as movies and circuses, and carelessly bred at cub petting facilities. Lions are the only social cat species, living in groups called prides. They have strict social structures and hierarchies consisting of a dominant male who watches over his females. Males protect their territory, while females provide all of the cub care and do most of the hunting.

By being forcefully kept in captivity, they are not able to live a natural lifestyle they deserve. Victims of the pet trade are forced to live alone, confined to small spaces, and suffer abuse and neglect due to lack of laws and regulations protecting them. The lions rescued at TCWR require extensive psychological and physical rehabilitation. They can never be released back into the wild, because they are born and bred in the United States for profit, have never been taught how to hunt, and would not survive without humans caring for them.

TCWR’s lion pair Daniel and Chloe were rescued in September 2016 from a shutdown pseudo-sanctuary in Colorado. Daniel had a severe injury to his eye and had to be amputated upon arrival, as well as a tumor on his tail removed. They were kept in small enclosures, walking on ground-up pallet boards with nails in them, had filthy living areas, and were extremely frightened of people. Now in their forever home at TCWR, they have come into their own and can be seen lounging comfortably on their bench and caroling throughout the night with our other lions Tsavo, Willy, and Savanna.

To help lions in captivity, only visit accredited zoos and sanctuaries that provide the quality of life captive animals deserve. Avoid any place that uses big cats for entertainment as well as places that let you hold baby cubs. By passing stricter laws such as the Big Cat Public Safety Act HR 1380 and the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act HR 2863, we can prevent exotic animals from suffering in the United States, and shift focus to protecting their wild counterparts.

Since the release of the original Lion King in 1994 half of the lions in the wild have disappeared. With their numbers down to 20,000, they are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. They have lost 90% of their historic range due to habitat loss and human population growth. Their main threats consist of human-lion conflict, bushmeat poaching, human encroachment, trophy hunting, and illegal poaching. With your help, we can speak out for lions in the wild and also in captivity. We hope to see you this week to celebrate our lions!

Water Is Essential

To Fulfill Our Mission

July 9, 2019

Water is one of the most essential elements to our existence. Everyone knows the old survival axiom, “Three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food.” W.H. Auden once highlighted the necessity of accessible H20 by stating, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water…” and Leonardo da Vinci called it the “driving force of all nature.” We would say that, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware of how vital water is to survival, but the fact is, even our rock-dwelling friends rely on this life-sustaining substance.

At the Refuge, where around 100 animals are housed at any given time, the topic of water remains pretty centralized in our day-to-day doings. (In case the entire first paragraph failed to give that away.) Habitats are cleaned daily, water dishes are cleaned and filled three times a day, and in the summer, pools are continuously being rinsed and refilled since many tigers take a multi-purpose approach of using them for both toilet time and playtime. The strain of distributing our water amongst our animal residents, the multitude of guests, and the team members who live on-site is part of why we have the dire need to update our well and water system.

After a hot summer morning of cleansing habitats, scrubbing food and water trays, as guests in our lodging suites shower, and as visitors use the restroom and rinse their hands before their tour, our water pressure is fairly dismal when it’s finally time to fill pools. Not only is this valuable time our animal care team could be devoted elsewhere, but it also hinders the amount of time our animal residents can enjoy their cooling enrichment. Our updated water system will allow for quicker filling in the summer and for the expedited sterilization of feeding utensils all year long.

An expanded hydration network also allows for the overall expansion of our property, which means we can construct more habitats for survivors of the Exotic Pet Trade. With anywhere from 7,000-10,000 tigers living in the U.S. and only 850 sheltered by accredited zoos and sanctuaries, there are thousands upon thousands suffering this very moment- and that’s just tigers! Lions, bears, cougars, bobcats, feline hybrids- the list of animals in desperate need of refuge continues. Our passion extends not only to our current animal residents, but also the future ones who are waiting to be touched by our mission.

Additionally, the expansion opens doors for widespread outreach. As you know, the new well and water system is the first step in the creation of our Visitor Education Center because it allows us to be flooded with more and more guests. Every dollar someone spends at our true sanctuary is a dollar that does not go to a circus, “scam-suary,” or roadside zoo. Every second someone spends observing our educational displays could be the very second that prompts them to take action against the Exotic Pet Trade. By drawing more visitors to an ethical tourism establishment, we are building a team of advocates (like you!) who will eventually wash away the Trade and the violent physical and emotional abuse animals experience at its hands.

Da Vinci was correct when he said water is the driving force of nature. What he didn’t mention is that you are the driving force of change. Our mission, your support, the creation of our new well and water system are all drops in the ocean that will end Exotic Pet Trade, and we are ready to make waves. We’ve raised over $30,000 towards our $150,000 goal. Your donation will help us continue our mission, and with a $40,000 matching donation up for grabs, your contribution to this project will go twice as far! Will you join us? Donate now at

Independence Day

Prince and Tony Rediscover Their Freedom

July 2, 2019

Independence and freedom are never in short supply at the Refuge. Here, animals rescued from a variety of undesirable situations are given a chance to regain their life or experience it as they never have before. If you take a stroll through our sanctuary you may hear the carol of lions, the splash of bears sloshing in their pools, and the “thud” of rowdy tigers taking their enrichment barrels to the ground; to us, this is the sound of freedom ringing!

It’s always exciting when an animal resident claims their first taste of liberation from the confines of whatever small space their previous owners forced them into. Bobcat brothers, Prince and Tony, were captured from the wild as kittens. They were kept as pets for the first few months of their short lives. Most of their time was spent in small crates with the occasional moment of leisure in a dog run outside the people’s home.

Last week, Prince and Tony were finally released into their outdoor habitat after spending the first few weeks of their time at the Refuge regaining their health in our veterinary hospital. The moment their paws touched the grass, it was as if they knew they were given a second chance. Though they remained aloof, as bobcats do, the pair bravely explored their new space with enthusiasm and curiosity. With each passing day, the bobcat brothers grow more and more dauntless, proudly claiming their domain as their own.

We hope you can celebrate the Fourth of July holiday by visiting Prince and Tony in their new habitat and wishing them a happy “independence day!” We are open our regular hours of 9 AM – 6 PM.

On behalf of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, we want to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July and thank all the military men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. We are happy to offer you 50% off admission year-round!

Health Check-Up

Floyd’s Exam

June 25, 2019

On Monday, Floyd, one of six tigers rescued from Oklahoma, was sedated for a routine health exam. Floyd came to us from a closing facility in Oklahoma five months ago. It was clear health issues were plaguing him and the five other tigers at the facility from the moment our team arrived. Floyd was reported to be suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease upon rescue. An exam was required to see the extent of the issue.

All were overweight and outward appearances showed the potential of genetic maladies from inbreeding. An orange tiger, Diesel, was in the most grievous condition; he was lethargic, listless and the owner of the facility reported the tiger had not been eating. Despite intensive intervention by our animal care team, Diesel succumbed to feline infectious anemia four days after his rescue.

First thing was first: the other tigers were tested for the tick-borne pathogen that struck Diesel then promptly put on healthy diets to combat their obesity. Aside from Robbie, a painfully overweight white tiger, we were most concerned with Floyd. He had evident physical deformities in his front limbs and had been previously diagnosed with metabolic bone disease.

Dr. Kellyn immediately started Floyd on a pain management program and vitamin regimen. We couldn’t sedate him for an extensive exam until the weather reached more ideal temperatures and there were no storms; Monday, we were finally able to get the perfect day.

The examination revealed the extent of Floyd’s limb deformities. The bones in his front legs are twisted. We will continue our current treatment plan of medication and vitamins since it appears to be working. Given the severity of his deformities, he would likely be in constant pain, were it not for his current course of care that allows him to stalk through his habitat, shred enrichment, and splash in his pool.

Floyd also has a significant heart murmur and an undescended testicle. Because both conditions pose consequential risks, we will be monitoring them and re-evaluate when he is sedated to be neutered. It is our hope that both complications will improve or completely resolve in a few months. If not, we will have to perform a more invasive neuter to remove the testicle and determine the best course of treatment for the murmur.

Floyd’s malformed bones and other health struggles are most likely symptoms of improper breeding. Improper breeding is a symptom of greed. In a world where big cats, bears, and other exotic animals are widely regarded for their profit value rather than their conservational value, the ability to make a dollar trumps the ethical responsibility of those who exploit them.

We were too late to save Diesel and many others. It would have been easy to let the unfairness and the unjustness of the situation envelope us; we were heartbroken that we lost such a sweet soul so quickly and utterly infuriated that this tiger could have been saved had he been given help much, much sooner. However, there are many other animals that needed our help so we channeled our sadness and anger into a sheer determination to give them the chance Diesel didn’t get. Because Diesel deserved better. They all deserved better.

Please join us in fighting against the Exotic Pet Trade, where veterinary care, healthy diets, proper enclosures, and responsible breeding are considered unworthy of the expense. Join us in fighting against the industry that viewed Diesel as disposable and Floyd’s pain as irrelevant. They deserved better. They all deserve better.

Teachable Experiences

New Movie “Secret Life Of Pets 2” Includes A White Tiger

June 19, 2019

Blackfire and Peyton stalk their sibling RocklynAnimated movies are a fantastic way for children to connect real life morals and values in the form of cartoon characters. We all remember the most influential movies of our childhood, and the way watching them made us feel in that moment, 25 years into the future. For animal lovers, The Lion King was extremely impactful, and still is today. With the growing industry of childhood animation and storylines, it is important to not forget what messages those movies are sending the future of the natural world, our children.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a sequel, where the heroes in the film fight together to rescue a white tiger from an abusive life in a circus. The film is full of action, with the main character Max anxiously doing everything he can as a dog to protect his human baby, and his furry friends try to rescue Hu, the white tiger, from an abusive circus master. The moral of the story is that children can embrace the challenges of life, and overcome personal fears.

However, the ending winds up with Hu, the white tiger, living in a household as a pet. Although rescuing exotic animals from the circus industry is a wonderful way to teach children the negative aspects of animal entertainment, it encourages keeping wild animals as pets. As the exotic pet trade continues to wreak havoc on captive wildlife, we must use these opportunities to speak out to our children on why tigers should never be kept as a pet. Just as the real-life stories we see of tigers being kept in apartments in New York, or abandoned in a home in Texas.

White tiger Donner stalks the camera with a smile on his face.Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge relentlessly fights to advocate and create awareness on why tigers, lions, bears, and other exotic wildlife should never be kept as a pet. For 27 years, TCWR has been rescuing abused, neglected, and abandoned big cats from those who cannot provide them with the proper care. There are over 7,000 tigers kept as pets in the United States, when there are only 3,800 left in the wild.

Together we can stop the exotic pet trade by working together and teaching our children that tigers and other endangered species should be kept in the wild. Captive exotic animals should be in the care of professionals, should never be held or pet, and live their lives at facilities like Turpentine Creek, where they can live a life of freedom at a true sanctuary.

We encourage our supporters to use this opportunity to speak to the younger generation on how they can help, and to spread the message that predators are not meant to be pets. By having an open-ended conversation with the youth in your life, you can facilitate wildlife warriors for the future. Discuss why having a predator as a pet is never a good idea, and if that were a real-life tiger, what kind of care does it deserve? We can use these opportunities to teach our children that not everything in life (or a cartoon) is what we should believe is right.

Turpentine Creek is not discouraging our supporters from watching this movie, only encouraging them to use this movie as an opportunity to have a discussion with their children and other people.

New Bobcat Rescues Health Update

Dr. Kellyn’s Exam Results

June 13, 2019

Staff Veterinarian Dr. Kellyn Sweely lets previous intern and current veterinary student Nicole Barney check out Tony's eyesTurpentine Creek’s staff Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweely, reports that our two newest resident bobcats, that were left behind in a flooded Sebastain County home, are in “relatively good condition,” after performing a full wellness exam conducted earlier in the week.

Eight-month-old bobcat brothers, Prince and Tony, were rescued in a joint effort by TCWR and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (ifaw) two weeks ago after flooding in West Central Arkansas forced the previous owner to evacuate and leave the pair behind.

Dr. Sweely checkes out Tony's eyes

Our initial concerns was that Prince and Tony were malnutrition and muscle atrophy. Dr. Kellyn’s evaluation showed both issues were present, but that Prince and Tony were already making progress on both accounts thanks to a better diet and more space to move around.

The bobcats had been taken from the wild by the previous owner when they were approximately one month old and fed strictly cat food, meaning their diet lacked the vital nutrients they should have gotten in the wild. They were confined to small crates the majority of the time, which caused the muscle atrophy in their back legs. It was also reported that the brothers were separated from each other due to aggression, but the team hoped that neutering them would alleviate that aggression and allow them to be reintroduced.

Prince being neutered by Dr. Sweely

After spending Sunday and Monday performing the neuter and full exam under sedation, TCWR Staff Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley noted that Prince and Tony are on their way to ideal health. Because they were introduced to a proper diet immediately upon arrival to the Refuge, they have already begun to gain weight, with Tony weighing 27 pounds and Prince 23. Both were given a deworming treatment. The team is concerned about the presence of metabolic bone disease due to malnutrition, though the results from those blood tests will not be back for several days.

Prince and Tony will be reintroduced to each other in 1-2 weeks, after they have completely recovered from surgery.

In the meantime, TCWR Assistant Curator Laurie Vanderwal says, “They have both been playing with toys and seem to like cardboard boxes and spices, as well, and have been comfortably resting on blankets.”

You can help us care for Prince and Tony by donating now at Thank you for your support!

New Serval Habitat Opening

Celebrating Our Servals New Home

June 12, 2019

Bowden exploring his new habitatTurpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge released our serval residents into a new habitat Wednesday morning. Its creation was made possible by the Roop family.

A crowd gathered at the Refuge a little before 10 AM just as there was a break in rain showers to commensurate the grand opening of the new enclosure, which is 200 feet long, 40 feet at it’s widest, and 27 feet at its most narrow.

Animal Curator, Emily McCormack, greeted attendees with a speech recognizing the Roop family’s generosity.

“Thank you guys so much for donating,” McCormack said. “…Making a habitat forever helps animals- not just these ones today, but some in the future.”

Gesturing to the Roop family, she continued, “For them, it’s a legacy for their family- for their kids and grandkids, who are here. It takes people like that to keep the mission going here at the Refuge.”

The family was also recognized with a special sign placed on the perimeter fence of the enclosure and had the honor of opening the doors to release the servals.

Giselle leaping for joy as she explores her habitatA group of three servals, consisting of males Bowden and Whistler, and female Giselle, were released during the ceremony. As the rain began to trickle from the sky once more, Bowden was the only one brave enough to peek through the doors and slowly creep out to explore his new space. Next door neighbor, Chloe, a lioness, demonstrated an interest in the potential new friend but was quickly dismissed with a “hiss” from Bowden.

“For smaller cats, a lot of times things are a little bit scary,” McCormack warned earlier during her speech, telling the crowd she hoped the servals would emerge when they opened the doors.

Once the crowd dispersed, Whistler and Giselle finally made an appearance and spent time investigating their updated surroundings.

Whistler taking a break from watching his new neighborsServals, Sammy and Enzo, who were rescued as kittens last July, will be introduced to the other three once they all have time to get comfortable with their surroundings. They along with Tigger, a Savannah Cat rescued with Sammy and Enzo, will get their chance in the habitat in the upcoming days.

Construction on the habitat began early in the winter; maintenance and animal care teams, as well as volunteers, worked through spring furnishing the space with a heated/cooled building, natural rock formations, wood features, firehouse hammocks and a pool. The team faced several obstacles, including unpredictable weather and material delays.

Now that the project is finally completed, guests can view it as part of the regular guided tour offered.

A live stream of the serval habitat release can be viewed on Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s Facebook page:

Put An End To Their Suffering

Bill Introduced to House to End Circus Animal Abuse

June 11, 2019

On May 21, 2019, Arizona representatives Raúl Grijalva and David Schweikert reintroduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA). This bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of exotic or wild animal in a traveling animal performance.

Exotic animals like lions, tigers, bears, and elephants have been used as entertainers for human enjoyment since the early 1900’s. Research and investigation of animal traveling performances have provided clear evidence that not only is animal welfare compromised, but also public safety. Animals used in traveling shows are withheld of the care and freedom they deserve, compromising their physical and mental health. The animals frequently move around for 11 months of the year with little time to exercise, being limited to small, confined areas unable to move around. When they are not in small cages, they are ‘training’ and performing. Under these conditions, wild instincts emerge and the animals are mistreated and punished.

Not only are traveling shows with wild animals a danger to the animals, but they also create major safety concerns for the general public.  Traveling animal performances use collapsible, temporary facilities, which increase the risk of escape and serious harm to every party involved. They present extreme safety risks by allowing contact and displaying animals in an inappropriate and dangerous closeness to humans.

Across the world, 45 nations have prohibited wild animal performances. In the US 32 states, and 92 jurisdictions have banned or restricted the use of wild animals in traveling shows. Two states have completely banned traveling animal acts, they are New Jersey and Hawaii.


Contact your state’s representatives and encourage them to support the bill. According to the president of Animal Defenders International, Jan Creamer, the bill needs 100-150 cosponsors in Congress. You can send your representative an email by clicking here. You can also avoid going to traveling animal shows. If you are wanting to go to a circus animal-free circuses are around.

Button to contact your rep

Summer Fun Days

Educational Days for Kids at TCWR

June 4, 2019

Kids enjoying summer day camp at TCWR and learning about animal tracksFor the second year in a row, Turpentine Creek is excited to announce that we are hosting kids day camps in June. Our 9 to 12-year-old camp is full, but we still have plenty of spots open for our 6 to 8-year-old camp on June 12-14th!  We are also very excited to announce a new kids summer activity happening in July, our summer Fun Days!

We all love the fun that summer offers such as playing in the pool, fishing, and enjoying the sunshine. This summer, join TCWR’s Education Team for our Summer Fun Days in July.  Each day we will explore the refuge through fun activities, games, arts and crafts, and more. The summer fun days will each start with a tour of the refuge before diving into our learning activities.  TCWR is an amazing place for kids to enjoy their summer vacation, they will discover why Exotic Animals don’t make good pets and have fun while they learn. Our Summer Fun Days take place each Saturday in July at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Kids enjoying summer at TCWR's Summer Day CampHowever, if you live in the Rogers/Bentonville area and are unable to make a drive out to the refuge, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting Summer Fun Days on Fridays at the Center for Non-profits in Rogers Arkansas. We will have the same fun learning activities and crafts that participants will enjoy at the refuge. Each child that attends the event at the Rogers location will get a free admission ticket to the refuge as well.

Summer Fun Days will take place from 9am-1pm and costs $30 per child (please bring sack lunch and snack). We are looking forward to a summer full of fun learning about Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my! For more information and to register, please visit the summer day camp section on our website at . Please feel free to contact our Education Department at or at 479-253-5841 ext 3.

Two Bobcats Rescue

Flooding in Arkansas Displaces Bobcats

May 29, 2019

Record flooding on the Arkansas River has destroyed houses and businesses in west central Arkansas. Many humans have lost their livelihood in only a few short days because of heavy rainfall in Arkansas and Oklahoma. But humans are not the only victims of these storms. On May 28th, 2019, at around 1 pm, Turpentine Creek was contacted by a woman who had two pet bobcats given to her after they were rescued from a flooded house.

The two 8-month-old bobcats, Prince and Tony, had been rescued from a flooded home in Lavaca, Arkansas. They were confined to dog crate cages with rising flood waters already reaching their chests. The rescuers pulled the pair of bobcats out of the house in time to save their lives, but not all of the owner’s animals were rescued in time. The owner relinquished the bobcats to a woman in Charleston, Arkansas, who was known to take in small animals in need. The woman had no idea how to care for bobcats, so she reached out to local rescues to find them a home. Multiple rescues pointed her in Turpentine Creek’s direction, so she reached out to us for help.

Turpentine Creek answered the call and packed up to race down to rescue the bobcats. We had to navigate around flooded areas and what should have only been a two-hour trip took over three hours to navigate. Many roads were flooded, and most bridges had been closed down due to severe flooding. Despite this, the team took their time and safely made it to Charleston, Arkansas to pick up our newest animal residents and arrive back at the Refuge at 11 pm.

According to the rescuer, the pair of bocats had been found in the wild in October of last year and were approximately one month old. The individual who found them decided to keep them as pets and had them living in her house. When her husband became sick, they were moved to small crates in the person’s backyard and were allowed to spend some time in a dog run on occasion. Both Tony and Prince show signs of severe muscle atrophy in their hind legs due to this. They were also both reportedly being fed cat food, an improper diet for a bobcat, and also show nutritional deficiencies. Our veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, will be performing a full examination and evaluation of their health over the upcoming days.

Prince and Tony will spend the next few weeks in quarantine down at our vet hospital to prevent the transfer of any diseases. Once they have been cleared of all diseases and infestations, we plan to neuter the pair and attempt to re-introduce them. They will then be placed in a habitat where they can spend their lives enjoying a safe, happy, life at with us the Refuge.

Turpentine Creek was assisted in this emergency rescue by ifaw, who has partnered with the Refuge to pay for rescue and veterinary expenses for the pair of bobcats. With the flooding happening around the country from the severe storm many animals have been displaced. Unlike normal domestic cats and dogs, there are very few places that captive exotic animals can go. With assistance from groups like ifaw, sanctuaries will be able to step up and offer assistance as needed to rescue these victims of the exotic pet trade.

Please donate today to help us care for our newest animal residents. Tony and Prince will need adopters and sponsors to help us care for them for the remainder of their lives. These two young bobcats now have a real chance at life here at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. It is only with your help that we can continue to rescue survivors of the exotic pet trade. 

A picture of Prince, a 9-month-old bobcat recently rescued by Turpentine Creek.

Prince the 9-month-old Bobcat, rescued by Turpentine Creek.

Tony the 9-month-old bobcat recently rescued by Turpentine Creek.

Tony the 9-month-old bobcat recently rescued by Turpentine Creek.