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 F1 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.

History of the Exotic Pet Trade

How did the Crisis Begin

June 29, 2018

What does an African lion look like in its natural habitat? Images of a pride surrounded by tall grass appear, the hot sun beaming down across the savannah, the lions happy and healthy with plenty of antelope and zebra to feast upon. The realization that there are lions in the middle of the United States, thousands of miles and an ocean away from home, living in a cramped horse trailer, is completely appalling. In fact, there are 10,000 big cats that are born and bred to be owned privately as pets or used for entertainment. These majestic creatures will never know what it is like to live a life roaming the savannah, wild and free from human exploitation.

For generations, humans have been capturing wild animals and bringing them back to America for personal gain and shock value. This practice is not new, but the lack of regulations federally has caused an explosion of dangerous exotic animals in the wrong hands today. By taking a look at the history behind the exotic pet trade, we can create a better understanding of how all of these exotic animals ended up in basements and backyards and how we can work to stop it.

2017: There are more tigers held in private hands in the US (~7,000), than in the wild (~3,200). The tigers in the U.S are not helping with conservation since they can never be released into the wild. Lauren Slater from National Geographic states that “it is believed the more exotic animals live in American homes then are taken cared for in American zoos”.  It is quite easy to get your hands on a big cat, where you can purchase one for $200. (Less than what it costs for a purebred dog!) They are purchased from backyard breeders, gas stations, wildlife auctions, and easily found on the internet.

Cubs are sold to owners who have no idea what it takes to care proper care of a dangerous exotic cat. Once they start to grow, use their teeth and claws and act like the wild animal they are, many owners are unable to provide adequate care for their large carnivores. These animals end up malnourished, abandoned, abused, and in need of rescuing. That is where places like Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge step in to rescue and care for the animals that are no longer wanted an provide them with a forever home.

The exotic pet trade is a lucrative multi-billion-dollar industry, only 3rd to drug and weapon trafficking in the U.S. Laws vary state by state, as of now there are no federal laws that are regulating private ownership. If you live in Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, or Wisconsin, there are no regulations or permits needed to own dangerous animals in these states. Curious what the regulations are in your state? Click here.

How you can help the future of these animals: You can make a difference.

  1. Never purchase an exotic pet
  2. Roar for the animals! Be their voice and share what you’ve learned
  3. Do not support roadside zoos, circuses, and cub petting facilities
  4. Support TRUE sanctuaries. Visit Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
  5. Contact your local representative and support H.R. 1818

Take Action Now! H.R. 1818 or The Big Cat Public Safety Act will help stop private ownership of dangerous exotic big cats. This federal law prohibits unregulated buying, selling, breeding and handling of big cats. Facilities such as zoos and sanctuaries with proper USDA licensing will be the only facilities allowed to have big cats, and future private ownership will be prohibited. Click here to find your local representative and encourage them to support H.R. 1818 today!

Putting the Cat in EduCATion

TCWR’s Online Fundraiser

June 25, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge will host an online auction Friday, July 13, to support the “education” aspect of our mission.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We at TCWR share that sentiment. Educating others plays an important role in putting an end to the exotic big cat trade and in protecting wild animals, whether they are captive or in a natural environment.

This year, we unveiled our new Education Department that has given us the opportunity to host special programs and accommodate more groups at the Refuge. We are also looking forward to making breakthroughs with our new Visitor Education Center. Combined with our informative tours, it is our hope that these elements can come together to provide insight, information, and inspiration to all who visit TCWR. Even if only one person a day leaves with the knowledge they lacked before and a newfound commitment to animal welfare, then we are slowly but surely changing the world. That “we” includes you!

Aside from visiting TCWR, participating in our auction will be a fun way to support our mission! There will be a variety of items to bid on including:

Artwork Jewelry Gift Certificates to Local Businesses And More!

For more information, please keep an eye on our Facebook event page.

Local business owners who would like to donate to the auction in order to promote their establishment while raising money to support TCWR’s animal residents are encouraged to email

Keeping Big Cats as Pets

Why is that a problem?

June 18, 2018

Outside of accredited zoos and sanctuaries, there are an estimated 10,000 big cats privately owner within the United States. These wild apex predators can be found in backyards, basements, corn cribs, horse trailers, roadside zoos, circuses, cub petting facilities, as personal pets, and hunting ranches throughout the country. There are more privately owned tigers in the U.S., around 5,000 – 7,000, than there are in the wild, roughly 3,800. The mass quantity of tigers being kept as “pets” is a major concern for big cat conservation and welfare.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been rescuing abused and neglected exotic cats, bears, and other species for 26 years, since it was founded in 1992. The immediate goal has always been to provide a second chance at life for animals that needed to be protected in a forever home. The Refuge has continually transformed over the years, proving that it is a true sanctuary. Turpentine Creek provides large grassy habitats for every animal and never buys, sells, breeds, trades, handles, or exploits the animals in any way. TCWR will continue to fight the exotic pet trade, and provide sanctuary for animals that call it home.

The exotic animal trade issue stems from extremely loose laws that are not very well regulated, allowing thousands of big cats to fall into inadequate care. Those who obtain large dangerous carnivores as pets do not understand the requirements it takes to care for them, and that they cannot be tamed or domesticated by humans. The result is an animal that is abused due to lack of knowledge, care, and resources of the owner.

It is easier in the U.S.A. to own a dangerous exotic animal than it is to own a pit bull, and you can buy a big cat for as little as $100-200. Mismanagement of exotic animals has reached epidemic proportions, and the captive wildlife industry has inconsistent views on the problems at hand. Regulating living conditions is not enough to ensure proper treatment of exotic animals. You can help Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge make a difference by visiting our website, and advocating for a law to be passed called the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1818/S.2990) to ban private ownership in the United States here.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act

Making Progress in Congress

June 11, 2018

Creating change in the lives of big cats across the United States takes time, patience, and a lot of persistence. On June 5, 2018, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was introduced to the Senate and assigned bill number S. 2990. This is a large step forward for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. For the bill to pass it must be approved by both the House and the Senate before being put on the President’s desk to be signed.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act – S. 2990 was presented to the Senate by Connecticut’s Senior Senator Richard Blumenthal and co-sponsored by five other Senators; Senator Kristen Gillbrand (NY), Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), Senator Edward Markey (MA), Senator Jack Reed (RI), and Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). After being read twice it was sent to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. It has yet to be assigned to a subcommittee but this should happen shortly. This means that the bill already has 6% of the Senate’s support, it will need 51% to pass.

The bill will run concurrently in the House of Representatives and the Senate so that it has a better chance of becoming a law. The bill must be passed before January 3, 2019, when the 115th session of Congress ends. Having the bill run in both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the same time will make the most out of the remaining time.

The bill has yet to pass in the House of Representatives, but we are seeing some major progress there. H.R. 1818 currently has 131 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, that is over 30% of the 435 members of the House! For a bill to pass it needs 218 votes 50.11%. But for the bill to even be voted on it needs to move from subcommittee to the floor. With your help, we could get the bill passed in the House soon. 

The supporters of The Big Cat Public Safety Act have done amazing things! Getting 30% of the House and introducing the bill to the Senate took a lot of support, but we aren’t done yet! Please continue to reach out to your Congressmen about The Big Cat Public Safety Act. Our Advocacy page has been updated to now include Senators. If you’ve already sent a message to your House Reps. we are asking that you send a message again to stress the importance of The Big Cat Public Safety Act, and also send a message to your Senators.

It is only with your help that we can make a major change in the lives of ALL big cats across the United States of America. We can change the world one paw step at a time. Help us, help them and send an email today. You can also share links on social media and encourage your friends and family to also reach out to their congressmen. You can make a difference in the lives of big cats TODAY!

First Kids Day Camp

Introducing Kids To Conservation

June 4, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge will be kicking off the busy summer season with our first day camp on Wednesday, June 6th. We are looking forward to 3 days of fun programs and activities with the kids. Throughout the week, the kids will discover the world of wildlife and how they can be the voice for animals everywhere. We will work together to create enrichment for the animals that call the Refuge home, explore animal senses, go on a nature hike to journal what we see and hear, and so much more.

Our goal is to help immerse children into the world of wildlife in order to help them understand why exotic animals do not make good pets. Through our summer day camps; the kids will see the animals every day and learn how dangerous it is to have a tiger, lion, bear, etc. as a pet. They will have a better connection to the animals that call Turpentine Creek home and will discover how to help advocate for wildlife everywhere. If you know any children that would love to participate in any of our day camps, we would love for them to attend. We do still have spots available for our camps in July. We know we are going to have a blast helping the kids explore Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge during their time with us. Check out our Education Day Camp page to see the Day Camp Schedule and to reserve a spot for your cub today!

The Reality of Cub Petting

How it is Detrimental To Conservation Efforts

May 25, 2018

Exotic animal cubs are heavily overexploited and overbred due to the extreme desire to view their cuteness. There are no “behind the scene” episodes of where the animals come from, or what happens when they grow into powerful apex predators. If the public knew that “liking” and sharing social media videos, following baby animal posts, or actually visiting a place to play with cubs was actually harming them, would they still be so popular? This is the information that every big cat lover needs to know.

  • Cub petting and pay to play schemes are some of the most popular interactive tourist attractions in the United States where animals are exploited for profit.
  • Animal-loving patrons are fooled into thinking they are helping with conservation or feeding an abandoned cub, and tricked into supporting cruel practices.
  • Cubs are stripped away from their mothers at birth, malnourished, sleep deprived, and lack proper veterinary care.
  • They are starved in order for them to be hungry for the next picture.
  • Babies are only allowed to be held from 8-12 weeks old legally.
  • Mothers are constantly bred to keep up with this window, when in the wild they would only have cubs every 2-3 years.
  • Breeding generic tigers and other exotic animals in captivity does not help with their conservation, or save them from going extinct.
  • Breeding actually causes a surplus of adult dangerous exotic animals, who are euthanized once grown and unprofitable, or sold to roadside zoos and circuses to live a life full of exploitation and abuse.
  • Very few big cats are fortunate enough to be rescued at a true sanctuary.

Are a few minutes of play and a photo worth a lifetime of suffering for a big cat?

For big cat lovers, there is a safe and beneficial alternative to help victims of the exotic animal trade and cub petting industry. Visit true sanctuaries that do not buy, sell, breed, or trade animals and provide them with a forever home. It is much more satisfying to know that the admission fees are going to help protect the animals from further exploitation and neglect. To see the big cats running around in large grassy habitats and playing with enrichment toys, to have a life they deserve.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has rescued abused, abandoned, neglected, and unwanted big cats and other exotic animals for 25 years. Not only will TCWR continue to provide Refuge for these animals, but continue to strive to educate every visitor to become an animal advocate and fight against the problem. Make a difference by supporting true sanctuaries and not visiting pseudo-sanctuaries or contributing to pay to play schemes. Together we can make a difference! Thank you for your continued support and “Helping Us, Help Them!”.

For more detailed information on Cub Petting, please Click Here to visit our Educational Information Section: Cub Petting.

You can help put an end to Cub-Petting in the USA by helping us pass The Big Cat Public Safety Act H.R. 1818. Reach out to your state representatives today and tell them that they need to support this bill and stop the exploitation and abuse of big cats in the USA.

Blog Written By Education Intern Hannah Wherry

A Purrfect Partnership

Big Cats for Small Cats

May 21, 2018

Inspired by the issues we see as a result of the exotic animal trade, as well as rampant homelessness among cats in NWA, TCWR will be partnering with local shelters to highlight adoptable felines! We will be implementing #MeetMeMonday across our social media channels and doing a special feature in our weekly e-newsletter that will give you the nitty-gritty on who might just be the kitty of your dreams!

There are at least 2,000 tigers being kept by private owners in the United States and countless other lions, leopards, and other wild animals in the same situation. After rescuing these animals for 26 years, we know firsthand the issues people encounter in their misguided attempts at domestication: from severe bites, to stitch-worthy scratches, to the simple fact that these critters grow from tiny, cute cubs to huge, destructive predators quickly. This leaves us scratching our heads when we read that there are 1.5 million shelter animals euthanized each year, according to There will be about 3.2 million cats waiting for a new home in 2018, alone.

Why would you want to contribute to the horrors of the exotic pet trade and put yourself and your family in danger by bringing a “big cat” into your house when there are many wonderful cats that have thousands of years of domestication in their DNA, who you could easily adopt today?

Check out the first candidate in your search for a lifetime companion, Mystic. This 8-month-old female was abandoned in a storage unit and needs someone to restore her faith in humanity. Will that someone be you? You can visit her at Purr Catfe in Fayetteville to find out: