The First In-Ground Pool is Complete

Tigers BB King & Mack Love Their New Permanent Pool

July 8, 2021

We’ve been working to put a real, in-ground pool in every habitat a water-loving creature may find themselves in at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Last weekend, we filled the first of many in the habitat currently occupied by tiger brothers BB King & Mack. We’re already working on constructing the second pool, and can’t wait to share the process with you! 

Our animal residents have, up to this point, been given stock tank pools each year. These “pools” are self-explanatory: large stock tanks often used by farmers to water cows and horses. Building our new pools costs $5,000 per structure, so for a while, the stock tanks have been a more affordable option as we worked to upgrade habitats in other ways. We now find ourselves at a point where replacing the stock tanks whenever a big cat finally damages it beyond repair is taking away from donations that could be used for other forms of enrichment and habitat up-keep. 

Permanent pools have been a goal for years. Just as “crashing the compound” to put every single animal in a big grass habitat and creating a veterinary hospital onsite was once nothing more than a crazy vision, our supporters are making this dream a reality. Our animal residents never asked to be in captivity and were forced there by someone else’s choices. We owe it to them to make choices that give them the best lives possible, and you are doing just that! 

The inaugural pool was placed in BB King & Mack’s habitat partly due to how long they’ve been with us, as well as BB King’s battle with cancer last year. After his long fight, he deserved a sweet enrichment surprise! This pair is laid back (okay, maybe “lazy” is a better word), so we partly expected the grand opening of their pool to be a bit lackluster on their end. However, both tigers excitedly darted towards their new water feature! Mack had to circle it a bit before dipping his toe in; in this video, you can see the light bulb going off in his head as he realizes what this gift means! 

The pool is big enough for both of them, but they haven’t realized it yet. If one of the brothers is soaking and the other approaches, the newcomer will be quickly shooed away by the current pool occupier. This is mostly okay since the boys seem to cope with disappointments by sleeping 36 hours a day. Imagine if nap-time and pool-time were the only things on your to-do list! 

Nine pools have been fully sponsored. If you would like to become a pool sponsor to make a tiger or bear’s dream come true, please email sandy@tcwr.org

If you’re unable to fully sponsor a pool, please consider making a donation to our pool fund. Please make sure to write the word “pool” in the notes option on the donation form so we know what you wish your contribution to be used for. No amount is “too small;” people generously giving what they can is why our animal residents have been allowed to thrive with us for almost 30 years. 

 

Big Cats React to New Rescues from Tiger King Park

How do the Current Turpentine Creek Residents Feel about New Neighbors?

July 1, 2021

As you know, we rescued 13 animals from Tiger King Park. As the court case involving these animals continues, we remain limited on the details we’re allowed to provide. Our current animal residents, however, have spent time since the rescue getting to know their new neighbors quite well. Interactions and reactions between new residents and current ones are always interesting; here are a few of our favorites! 

Bagheera, a black jaguar from Tiger King Park, currently lives next to Spyke, a black leopard. Spyke has been with us for years and doesn’t seem to care one way or another about his new neighbor. Prince and Tony, bobcats who were rescued two years ago, feel differently. They have lived across from Spyke long enough to be used to his daily routine. When Bagheera moved in, the bobcat brothers were a bit confused. They could be seen paying more attention to Spyke and Bagheera, whether they were out together or alone. The bobcats would “stalk” the leopard and jaguar, flicking their tails with eyes following them around their habitats. We think Prince and Tony believe there are now two “Spykes,” and are confused about seeing-double. These little fellas had never seen any type of larger black feline before their rescue, and likely believed Spyke was the only one in the world! They’re starting to figure things out, but it’s funny to observe them monitoring their neighbors. 

White tiger Snowball came to us during the 2016 Colorado Rescue. Snowball is known for his playfulness and tendency to destroy toys, stalk everything in sight, and be downright nosey. Kyro, a li-liger, is from the Tiger King Park Rescue, and moved in next to Snowball. The white tiger can come on a little strong; his big personality and staring problem can be too much for some animals to handle. Kyro doesn’t seem to mind. The pair watch each other and have long conversations through the fence (Snowball is likely giving him lectures regarding toy-destroying-best-practices). When Kyro is doing his own thing, Snowball seems a bit annoyed and bores holes into the li-liger with his eyes until the attention comes back to him. 

Poncho and Montanna, tigers also from our Colorado Rescue, enjoy long walks with new neighbor, Simba the lion. Sometimes fence-following can be rude, but this relationship seems amicable. Poncho and Montanna are chatty cats, emitting groans to team members and each other. They do the same with Simba, but he doesn’t seem to speak tiger. While Simba doesn’t respond verbally, he also doesn’t seem to reject the brother’s advances towards friendship. 

In a funny way, these interactions are a form of enrichment. Both new cats on the block and cats who have been around benefit from the sights and smells that come with different neighbors. We keep a close eye on everyone to ensure no one is too nervous or too territorial; as you likely know, some neighbors just aren’t a good fit. 

You can see these interactions in real-life by booking a tour. Remember, summertime means sleeping, shade-seeking cats, so coming on cooler days or opting for the 9 AM or 4 PM tour is often your best bet. To support the care of our new animal residents and those who may need help in the future, please consider becoming a recurring donor. 

Exploring a Day in the Life of an Intern at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Shadowing a TCWR Intern for the Day

June 18, 2021

A day in the Life of an Intern is, well… hard work! As a relatively new addition to the  TCWR team, I don’t recall what my preconceived notion of our intern position was, or if  I even had one. But I can tell you now – I had no idea just how much hard work, how many dirty jobs, and how much dedication was required of these team members on a  daily basis! Clearly, individuals in these positions are motivated by passion,  determination, and a drive to serve! The daily chores of these “backbone members” of our team are a true labor of love! Just think about what it takes to look after the well-being of an animal or two, such as a dog or a cat; from feeding and watering to providing  shelter and training, to obtaining medical assessment and treatments, to picking up after  them, etc… It’s definitely a full-time job!  

Now, multiply that by 100-fold to account for our 100+ residents currently residing at our facility! Add to the mix that these are not simple pet-level animals, but dangerous wild animals that require specialty care, individualized freshly prepared meals, medical care,  assessments, behavioral training, and maintenance of highly secure housing &  enclosures, designed to address the behavior and needs of the specific breed of animal.  Don’t forget the high-level precautions that must also be taken, and factored in when performing any general care, maintenance, or simple routine tasks, such as movement of animals from one enclosure to another or multiple daily movements between night house and habitat! Now that you have some idea of the intense level and breadth of effort that is required to care for these amazing creatures, what exactly does that look like on a daily basis? Take a deep breath, maybe fix yourself a nice hot cup of tea or a pot of coffee (I  get tired just thinking about it!) But here we go!  

Our interns work from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., or 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., six days a week,  in order to achieve the high standards of care required by TCWR and governing federal and state regulators, and keep us in compliance with our GFAS accreditation. The first-morning task is always the daily cleaning of animal enclosures. But even before that can begin, policies and procedures for ensuring the safety of people and animals alike must be strictly adhered to! This means repetitive checking and double-checking of multiple levels of locks, on all outer area enclosures, inner habitat enclosures, and night house enclosures. Each lock and lock level is checked and rechecked by two different individuals, prior to, and after any routine task is performed within any of the outermost area enclosures, animal habitats, and night house enclosures.  

Additionally, after all locks have been checked two times each, by two different individuals, the intern then must radio for permission from an animal care staff member,  prior to passing through the access point. High-security areas, habitat enclosures, and night house areas, all boast two locks each, one paddle lock, and one fabricated rebar lock, per access point. A formal daily lock-check regiment mandates checks at 7:00 a.m.,  2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m., and is in addition to the multiple checks performed before and after any area access for any reason. That’s a lot of locks and a lot of manpower checking locks! In fact, a good portion of every intern’s day is spent simply inspecting locks! But it’s worth it in order to ensure the safety and security of all involved. 

Another major portion of an internship day is ensuring a clean, healthy environment for all our animal residents. This is where things get messy! Daily tasks include removing and relocating all animal feces, hair, and soiled bedding from each night-house, and each night-house enclosure, and transporting it to the compost area. The night-house and night-house enclosure must then be scraped to remove all feces, food, and other debris,  before being thoroughly disinfected. Water & food bowls also need to be removed,  scraped, and disinfected. Oftentimes during cooler weather, we augment our animals’  bedding with mulch, in order to provide additional warmth over and above the standard straw bedding. In this instance, interns are also required to sift through the bedding, to remove wet or soiled portions, and replace them with fresh ones. If an animal has a pool,  (some don’t, simply because they don’t like it!) but if they do, that too, is drained and cleaned daily. The cleaning of outer habitat enclosures is rotated so that every animal’s area is fully cleared of all feces, animal hair, and any other garbage or debris, once per week.  

Accomplishing all these cleaning claims the remainder of the morning for our interns!  Once finished, tools are washed and put up. Then one or two, two-person teams make their rounds to ensure that every habitat has all doors open that should be opened –  providing animals full access to designated areas; all doors that should be closed, are closed; and all freshwater is fully topped off. During these rounds interns are also checking to verify that each individual animal appears to be in good condition; appears happy, healthy, comfortable, and without issues. Once this final morning round is complete, it’s time for a well-earned lunch break!  

Upon returning, interns will fill their time with an assortment of projects such as trimming branches, weed eating, painting habitats, general maintenance, and more, until the scheduled 2:00 p.m. lock-check and then gradually segue into food preparation, until the 4:00 p.m. lock-check. Additional afternoon responsibilities include conducting the 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m. visitor tram tours, and manning the discovery area on a rotating basis to address visitor questions and monitor tour flow.  

Food prep takes place in the commissary building which also houses storage areas for  refrigerated, frozen, and thawing food products, as well as large open cement areas for easy cleanup (with a garden hose!) Oversized bins are used to store and transport daily servings of meat from the freezer, to the thawing room, to the meal prep site. Each portion of meat that is removed from the thawing area, is immediately replaced by an equal measurement from the freezer, ensuring a constant supply of appropriately stored and thawed meats for daily meals.  

On the wall, a large whiteboard displays the dietary needs of each and every animal residing at our facility. Animal dietary needs are expressed by ink color, and specify the number of pounds of meat the animal is to receive. For example, black ink is used to communicate “bone-in” meat. Jasmine and Frankie both receive bone-in meat. A black seven appears next to their names, representing the number of pounds of the particular item they are to receive. Chuff is slated to receive 10 pounds of bone-in chicken. Next to  Payson’s name we see a green 10. That means that Payson will be receiving 10 pounds of red zoological meat, also sometimes referred to as AAA, or Triple A. Frankie and Jasmine also have green numbers next to their black numbers; with each slated to receive 2 1/2  pounds of red meat. We also see blue ink, which indicates an animal preference. Perhaps an animal doesn’t have a medical condition that necessitates that they avoid a certain item, but animal care staff notices that each time it’s provided, the animal passes it up.  This is an example of a food preference, that is indicated in blue ink. Another nutritional equivalent is substituted for the rejected item or meal portion. Meal portions are placed in large metal dishes with the animal name displayed on the outside. Rolling racks of these dishes line the room of the food prep area as portions are allocated. Meals are prepared one day before serving and then stored in the refrigerated area.  

Twice a month, Emily, our animal curator, assesses each individual animal’s diet according to its health, age, weight, and caloric needs. She is constantly reassessing in order to provide maximum health and nutrition for our animals, as their needs change and evolve. Robbie, the giant white tiger who was frequently confused for a polar bear when he first arrived back in 2019, had been overfed and weighed in at a very unhealthy 700+  pounds! Through careful meal planning, Robbie’s weight is now under control, resulting in a drop of about 200 pounds, to a more natural and healthy level. His formerly restricted portions were gradually increased, to level off his weight loss, and he now gets about 14  pounds of bone-in meat per day. Currently, our highest calorie diet goes to Rockland, a  female white tiger from Colorado, who is consuming 18 pounds of bone-in meat per day!  Some of our animals are on special diets due to medical or age-related conditions which include additional additives to boost nutritional content or address specific deficiencies.  Supplements are mixed into meals to insure consumption. Staff and interns measure,  prepare, and feed approximately 16,000+ pounds of meat per month, on average that’s about 525 pounds of meat per day, or 300,000 pounds of meat annually! 

Unlike the big cats, who are fed once a day, our bears are fed twice, except in winter months when they’re significantly less active. As omnivores, whose wild diet consists of approximately 80% produce, our bears are fed an assortment of fresh fruits, veggies, and other items aside from meat. A routine diet prepared for them may include chicken, sweet potatoes, oranges, apples, oats, dog food, and canned foods such as pumpkin, peas, corn,  peaches, and pears! In addition to their 2 meals per day, they get an egg (shell and all!)  plus a “fun” dish which includes some sweet or savory items to offer additional texture and variety and add quality of life! 

Prior to feeding, the commissary and all food prep equipment are scrubbed clean,  disinfected, and readied for the next days’ shift. Next, each animal must be relocated to and secured within their innermost habitat area prior to feeding (while staff and interns adhere to all previously detailed 2 person lock-check and safety procedures). Interns are accompanied by staff members as they make their way around the tour loop, feeding,  immediately after completion of the final daily tour.  

TCWR offers post-graduate internships for 6 months after a degree has been obtained.  The degree should be in animal-based science, such as biology, zoology, animal science,  conservation, etc., or geared toward biology and animal science. Interested individuals can find more information at: https://www.turpentinecreek.org/internship-program/. 

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Our contributing intern interviewed for this article was Jason Lavanway. Jason was an intern at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for 2 1/2 years, prior to his promotion to staff in January 2021. He is originally from North East New York and graduated with a BS in  Zoology (animal science).  

 

 

The Pursuit of the Mythical Lap Leopard

Even the Smallest Wild Cats are #PredatorsNotPets

June 17, 2021

Tigger (left) may be smaller than Giselle (right), but he keeps his bigger counterparts in check! It takes only a single yowl or hiss to make his African Serval friends retreat. Not only is Tigger the Savannah Cat at-risk for a lifetime of health issues, but his breeding encourages the illegal trade of African Servals.

 The term “lap leopard” is very seductive. It paints a picture of an exotic feline that is not only small enough to cuddle but docile and affectionate enough to find such human attention appealing. That picture, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. It is in fact, pure fantasy!

Unfortunately, the propaganda surrounding these creatures is as pervasive as it is persuasive, and has enticed many a cat lover to put up large sums of money (in the thousands!) to own one of these ethereally portrayed animals. Sadly, when the true temperament of these unnaturally cross-bred animals comes to light, it is too late. The burden of the mistake doesn’t just fall on the expectant owner; it falls heaviest on the innocent creature.

Unlike the owner, (who is disappointed to find his new “pet” unaffectionate, destructive, untrainable, and frequently downright dangerous) the innocent animal, who didn’t have any choice in the matter, will suffer far greater! Not only is the animal most likely to find himself repeatedly re-homed or completely homeless, and unable to provide for himself, he is destined for a lifetime of health issues, dietary insufficiency, thwarted primal instincts, lack of appropriate care, and more!  

Because hybrid animals are not supposed to exist, they are subject to many issues that Mother Nature would have never allowed to occur. For example, a  Savannah cat is created when disreputable breeders (motivated by greed) cross a house cat (that has been acclimated to eating formulated cat food over the course of multiple generations of domestication) with that of an African Serval,  whose digestive system is designed to subsist on a diet of nothing but pure fresh meat. When these two animals are interbred, nothing good comes out of the mix.

While the domesticated side of the resultant hybrid cannot tolerate a diet solely of raw meat, neither can the wild side tolerate the formulated foods. The result: chronic and painful digestive issues ranging from constant diarrhea, to full-blown irritable bowel disease! Such afflictions can result in nutritional insufficiency that can lead to a host of additional conditions including cardiovascular issues, retinal atrophy, peritonitis, gingivitis, and chronic mouth sores, just to name a few!  

Domestic house cats are crossed with various wild breeds in order to create the mythical lap leopard. The four most common hybrid crosses with a domestic  house cat are: 

  • Asian Leopard cats, resulting in a Bengal 
  • Servals, resulting in a Savannah  
  • Jungle cats, resulting in a Chausies 
  • Geoffroy’s cats, resulting in a Safari 

Our sanctuary is currently home to eight African Servals and two ‘lap leopards’. Tigger is a male F-1 Savannah Cat (pictured left in the photo across from African Serval Giselle), and Sabina is a late-generation Bengal, (not pictured) who is forced to reside indoors as a result of the severity of her medical issues. As you can see from the photo, Tigger is considerably smaller than his wild counterpart. However, don’t be fooled by his small stature! Tigger has a purely wild heart and can hold his own in any situation. He is also very vocal, expressing himself in a broad spectrum of chirps and yowls, in addition to a routine meow! Although lap leopards Tigger &  Sabina have found a loving and receptive forever home at our sanctuary, they are still destined to suffer the consequences of unethical breeding in the various forms that their afflictions take, which is the greatest tragedy of all when it comes to unethical breeding!  

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Assists Federal Government in Rescue of Sixty Eight Big Cats from Tiger King Park

Thirteen Exotic Cats Safe at TCWR’s GFAS-Accredited Sanctuary

May 28, 2020

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge [TCWR] assisted the Federal Government in rescuing sixty-eight big cats from Jeffery (Jeff) and Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park previously owned by so-called “Tiger King,” Joe Exotic.

In January, a federal judge ordered the Lowes to surrender all big cat cubs in their possession under the age of one-years-old, as well as the mothers of the cubs, to the government, who has worked with sanctuaries and other animal welfare agencies to find safe homes for them. This comes after the judge “found that the United States had a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims that the Lowes had violated the Endangered Species Act, as well as the Animal Welfare Act.” 

A press release from the Department of Justice [DOJ]  listed that, “failure to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition, and timely veterinary care resulted in harm to a number of animals, including the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart,” and that the Lowes had a “pattern and practice of providing substandard care” to animals at their park. The release also noted that the Lowes put their animals in danger, under the Animal Welfare Act, by failing to have a qualified attending veterinarian employed at the park. 

Last week, the remaining Big Cats (of various ages and species) were seized after the Lowes were deemed non-compliant with court orders to increase the quality of care they were providing their animals. This was following three inspections since December 2020, which concluded the Lowe’s failed “to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior.” 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was contacted by the DOJ to assist in the rescue. Team members made two trips to Oklahoma, bringing back 13 animals total. They assisted in the transport of 8 animals to other GFAS-accredited sanctuaries and facilitated the placement of other felines at refuges within the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance [BCSA]. The BCSA is comprised of accredited sanctuaries who are working together to rescue big cats in need and advocate for the betterment of their futures. 

The twelve big cats (which include lions, tigers, a liger and a li-liger) and jaguar are undergoing medical examinations by TCWR’s staff veterinarian.

TCWR President Tanya Smith, who has been silently working with the DOJ and BCPSA for months to facilitate the rescue, says she is grateful the animals are safe at proper facilities now. She views the Court’s ruling and DOJ’s recent seizure as a win not only for the 68 big cats directly affected, but also for other big cats who may benefit from the precedent set by this case. 

Please consider making a donation to support the cost of the rescue. You can support the start of their new lives by making a donation at tcwr.org/donate.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is an animal sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. As a “true sanctuary,” they do not buy, sell, trade, or breed animals, but rather, provide a lifetime home to animals who have faced non-conservational for-profit breeding and other forms of abuse at the hands of private owners. Aside from providing the highest of care for the animals that find their forever home with them, key aspects of their mission includes education and advocacy with a goal of “ending the Big Cat Trade in our lifetime” and as a result, ceasing the need for places like the Refuge to even exist. TCWR has been a voice for animals for almost 30 years and has spent years advocating for the passage of The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 263 S.1210.

For updates on the new rescues’ journey, please “Like” Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Facebook, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @turpentinecreek, subscribe to their Youtube channel, and sign up for their weekly e-newsletter at tcwr.org/subscribe. 

To view the press release from the Department of Justice, please click here.

Experience the Magic of Spring at Turpentine Creek

Blooming Flowers, Bam Bam’s Waterfall Showers

May 22, 2021

TCWR is alive with the sights and sounds of springtime! In addition to the enthusiastic roars, chuffs, and grrrrrrs, so commonly heard at our refuge, wrens are trilling, chipmunks are scurrying (away from big cats!) and an array of scented herbs and native plantings are bursting forth to greet the day! The gentle spring sun is warming the earth, and the scent of blooms weighs heavily in the air!

Now that our bear residents have emerged from their winter torphor, all our animal residents are awake and ready to soak up the milder spring days! Bam Bam the grizzly, especially, adores the warmer months where his pool is full and more guests are flocking to see him! Additionally, each season gives us opportunities to spice up enrichment routines, and Spring is no exception. While supporters are kind enough to donate dried herbs for scent enrichment all year long, we’re fortunate to have a garden complete with fragrant flora. These fresh herbs are a true treat to entice the sniffers of every big cat and bear.

A quick survey of our Animal Enrichment Garden reveals an assortment of Salvias and Mints sprouting, from Chocolate, to Traditional, to Spearmint… and of course the ever-popular Catmint! Additional emerging perennials include Oregano and Thyme; and what herb garden would be complete without Lavender? We also find the ultra-aromatic Wild Bergamot, more commonly known as Bee-Balm, a butterfly and hummingbird favorite! This patch of herbaceous olfactory delights for our big cats is encircled by a bed of Roses and Day-Lillies, and accented by an occasional volunteer Bronze Fennel, from years gone by.

The other plants blooming across our beautiful slice of “Africa in the Ozarks” serve a purpose, too! Not only do they show off the beautiful Arkansas scenery, but they support native wildlife. We know the importance of biodiversity and many of our plants cater to vanishing pollinators: butterflies and bees! Our Education Team is comprised of Wildlife Interpreters who know which flowers are best for these creatures.

A quick stroll around the corner reveals a garden pond, now abloom with delicately colored flowers, cheerfully bobbing and swooning above the darkly colored lilly pads, that provide shade to the bright orange Coy fish playing below. To one side of the pond sits a raised flower bed, recently-planted with Native Perennials by our Education staff. Newly introduced plant varieties include:

 

  • Brunnera macrophylla, which goes by several common names, including Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not, and Brunnera. It has a slightly mottled leaf, with tiny blue flowers that dance high above its leaves.

 

  • Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is a member of the Asteraceae family, and is native to most of the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico, and makes a bright cheerful addition to any native perennial garden. 

 

  • Aster oblongifolius, more commonly referred to as Aromatic Aster, Shale Barren Aster, or even Wild Blue Aster, is highly attractive to native bees and butterflies. It is an essential nectar source for pollinating insects preparing for winter, as it tends to bloom when few other nectar sources are available. 

 

  • Rattlesnake Master is one of the host plants of the Black Swallowtail! It’s Latin name, Eryngium yuccifolium, comes from the fact that its leaves look very much like a Yucca plant. Other common names include Button Snakeroot, Yucca-leaf Eryngo, Corn Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Flag, and Rattlesnake Weed. Despite all of it’s snake-related names, it neither attracts or repels them, but instead gets its names from its supposed anti-venom properties!

 

  • Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), are native to North America and one of the most popular wildflowers grown. They typically occur in open woods, prairies, fields, roadsides and disturbed areas. 

 

  • Milk weed: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of about 115 species that occur in the Americas, and is the larval host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of this plant!

 

  • Mexican Hat is also known as Upright Prairie Coneflower & Long-headed Coneflower. It’s Latin Name is Ratibida columnaris, and it is a member of the Asteraceae family. It gets its name from its distinctive shape; a tall cone surrounded by drooping petals that look somewhat like a sombrero. Its foliage, deeply cleft leaves near the base, has a strong odor that is reported to work as a deer repellent!

 

In addition to finding newly- emerging plants, experiencing enticing natural aromas, and breathtaking panoramic views, you can be sure your springtime visit to TCWR will include seeing Bam Bam’s pool water level at its fullest… His waterfall blasting forth… and Bam Bam (the ham ham) all too eager to greet our guests!

Bam Bam says “Let the fun begin!”

A Deep Dive Into the Texas Tiger Situation

What it Means for Big Cat Ownership

It’s impossible to miss the latest news coming out of Houston, Texas. A tiger was filmed in a neighborhood last Sunday. We would like to address some of the most commonly asked questions we received after posting the story to our Facebook page, as well as summarize why this points to a greater need for federal legislation regarding big cat ownership. 

Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger? 

Officers typically aren’t trained to handle situations involving these apex predators here in the U.S., where such animals are not native.

Law enforcement officials are tasked to protect the public when an animal is on the loose. This means doing whatever possible to keep people safe. 

What about tranquilizing the animal? 

Sedating an animal is actually a tricky process. When sedating for medical procedures at TCWR, we have to match the dosage to the animal’s weight and wait for ideal temperatures to actually perform the sedation. If an officer decides to tranq the animal, it could still prove fatal to the tiger or lion because there is no way to get a proper weight or control the temperature in such random situations. If too much sedation is used, the animal will overdose. If it’s too cold out, the animal’s organs will shut down. 

Another barrier to tranquilizing in these situations involves the amount of adrenaline the animal is producing. If the animal is stressed, it will metabolize the sedation at a rapid rate. Its stress might come from the unfamiliar situation the animal finds itself in (being outdoors for the first time, hearing traffic, the commotion it senses). This rapid metabolization will also occur if the animal has attacked any “prey.” Once again, this could result in the animal’s demise from a tranq overdose. 

This leads us into a discussion of the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263). Why do we need to regulate the private ownership of these animals? 

Danger to the Public

“Ramos had no idea a man charged with murder was living next door to him in this family-friendly community — and with a tiger, no less.” 

This quote, in which Joe Ramos expressed his shock, can be found in one of the earlier news pieces about the tiger roaming the Houston, TX, neighborhood. (It should be noted that Ramos’s next-door neighbor in question, Victor Hugo Cuevas, is allegedly not the owner of the tiger.) 

You’ve likely observed us getting stalked and pounced at through the fence when turning our backs to a big cat. It’s a natural instinct. The way they hunt and even “play” is dangerous. Imagine living in a family-friendly community, letting your children out to play then having them attacked by an apex predator. Imagine taking a stroll to your mailbox and getting mauled by a tiger. It sounds bizarre and like the plot of a bad movie, but the truly bizarre thing is how easily it could happen. 

Danger to Law Enforcement/ First Responders

With animal attacks, law enforcement and EMTs need to access the injured/dead person. The fact that someone has to respond to this incident is now putting more people at risk. The situation is even more complicated if the attack happens inside a home. In this case, it can be hard for first responders to visualize what is happening before they enter and even harder to tranquilize the animal. How will they get to the victim? How will they do it safely? 

Danger to the Animal

Tigers are predators. It’s unfair to force them to be anything but that. By privately owning these animals, people are putting them in a situation where following their natural instincts can be a death sentence. If you haven’t yet, please read the section titled “Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger?” for an explanation of why sedation doesn’t always work. 

How will sanctuaries handle the influx of animals if the Big Cat Public Safety Act Passes?

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is not removing animals from anyone’s care. People who currently own big cats will be grandfathered in. The current legislation would only ban cub-petting. At no point has the law mandated the removal of animals from their current owners, as long as they meet the minimum requirements for their animal’s care and housing. 

How will law enforcement handle owners who turn their animals loose if the bill passes? 

The answer to this question applies to the answer above. While there have been incidents of people turning wild animals loose out of anger, anyone who does this would do so regardless of the bill passing due to their own irresponsibility and selfishness. 

How can you help?

Educate

Advocate

Donate

April Snow Showers Bring May Flowers

An April Snow Isn’t the Only Surprise in Store for Our Animal Residents

April 23, 2021

If there’s anything we’ve learned in the past year, it’s to expect the unexpected! Our big cats were treated to a Spring snow shower this week. The temperatures were warm enough to keep water dishes unfrozen and doors from being stuck shut, making this a no-fuss treat for all! This wacky weather was especially welcome after the last weather event that blew down two trees in Tigger and Floyd’s habitat and damaged our billboards.

While tigers are typically the most excited for winter-like weather, the lions and bears chose to check it out this time. They must have thought we were gifting them extra enrichment! The day was full of stalking, pouncing, digging, rolling, and sniffing at the chilly flakes.

Some puzzled glances were thrown our way by water-loving tigers, who know this is typically the time of year we start filling up pools. They seemed to think we made a serious error on the enrichment schedule! We’re hoping they’ll forgive us once they realize the special, surprise project we’re working on:

In-ground pools for all!

We will soon begin putting permanent pools in each habitat. This exciting project is something we’ve been working towards for years, with a few habitats already containing one. Now, in celebration of our 29th anniversary helping exotic animals in need, we are making it our goal!

By joining us for our Paws-In-Pools 29th Anniversary Online Auction April 30 – May 2, you can help us with this project while getting your paws on some unique items. All funds raised during this auction can support special summer projects, like our pools, as well as the care of our current animal residents and upcoming rescues.

Bidding opens at 8 AM Friday, April 30, and ends May 2 at 8 PM. You can get a sneak peek at our inventory here, where new items are being added almost daily. A simple way to paw-ticipate in the meantime is by going to our Facebook event, clicking “interested,” and inviting someone you know who may be interested.

There have been lots of paws in snowfall this year, but we’re excited to see some paws in pools!

Storm Warning

Fallen Trees & Safety

April 15, 2021

 

Two trees fell in Tigger and Floyd’s habitat Friday after a sudden storm blew through. Amid stinging rain and gusting winds, a radio call went out regarding the incident. Thankfully, there was no harm done to our animal residents nor was there a risk of an escape. 

Animal Care Team Member and Commissary Manager, Meg, was the first on the scene of the incident. She found Floyd, a normally nervous tiger, blissfully unaware of the event as he relaxed in his night house area. Tigger, a Golden Tabby Tiger who is always ready to play, was excited about the two trees he was “gifted,” assuming they were giant enrichment items given to him for being such a good boy. Per protocol, Meg immediately radioed other team members regarding the situation, including a quick assessment of the well-being of the tigers and the damage. 

Tigger and Floyd were easily shifted into their night house area so team members could address the damage. Our secondary perimeter fence took the brunt of the trees’ weight. Some fencing was bent, but our team worked over the weekend to repair it, putting up new wire and attending to the damaged perimeter. 

Because of our many accreditations, we are held to the highest of standards regarding not just animal care, but also safety and fencing. This situation could have had a very different outcome were we not. In addition to our normal guidelines, we have a specific protocol in place when there is a risk of storms. We continuously keep a close eye on the weather radar and have extra material on hand in case of damages requiring immediate attention. We always feed our animal residents in their night house area; this encourages them to shift inside when needed. Their night houses are made of strong concrete, which keeps them safe from damaging winds and lightning. It’s also where we lock them when there is damage to their habitats that need immediate attention. Because Tigger and Floyd associate their night house with food and treats, it was easy to quickly get them inside so we could fix their habitat. 

We have participated in many rescues in the almost-29-years Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been in existence. The “enclosures” we have found in people’s backyards, road-side zoos, and pseudo-sanctuaries were concerning enough that we often feared for our safety. There are big cats in the U.S. right now, living in dilapidated, unsturdy structures, which is both a cruelness to the animal, but also a safety threat to the public. This is why we’re asking you to support H.R. 263: The Big Cat Public Safety Act. The current bill is the first step in demanding a higher-quality-of-life for big cats in captivity, as well as safer standards to protect first responders, law enforcement officials, and the general public. By visiting our website, you can not only learn important information about the legislation in order to have productive conversations about big cat and public safety, but you can also send an email directly to your representatives asking for their support. 

 

We’re Not in Kansas (er, Texas?) Anymore!

Support Animals Like Ce’Ce’ & JJ During NWA Gives Day!

April 1, 2021

Two of our newest residents, Ce’ Ce’ & JJ, a sibling pair of African Servals, are adjusting nicely to  their new forever home at TCWR. Relinquished by their previous owner due to COVID  related changes back in February, they are just now beginning to feel comfortable with their new lives at the Refuge. Both are  in fairly good health, aside from the expected  degenerative bone disease commonly seen when kits or cubs are prematurely separated from  nursing mothers. Declawing also frequently results in degenerative bone issues, which this pair  was subjected to as well.   

A visual exam of both animals determined their senses of sight, hearing, and smell to be intact,  with eyes clear and bright and ears and sinuses free of infections and obstructions. Incisors,  canines, and first bottom premolars also appeared healthy and unremarkable. Dr. Kellyn  Sweeley, staff Veterinarian, noted that their coats appeared to be in good condition as well, with  no observable lacerations, abrasions or masses present, at least from the cursory exam she was  able to perform upon their arrival. More extensive, in-depth medical examinations including x rays to assess skeletal conditions, will be performed after the animals have been given sufficient  time to adjust to their new surroundings. Both animals are progressing slowly but steadily  toward that goal, with JJ, the female, taking the lead.  

Initially neither were observed venturing out of their night-house except under full cover of  darkness. In recent days however, JJ has graced team members with her appearance more and more,  albeit in brief increments. In time, we expect to see her less adventurous litter mate follow her  lead. JJ’s higher level of curiosity regarding her environment may be due – at least in part, to a prior escape from her previous owner, which allowed her to experience a full 3 days of complete  freedom from her small enclosure.  

Current transitional dietary plans for the two provide for a slow introduction of assorted raw  meats in order to avoid any digestive disturbances. Later introductions will include vitamin and  mineral supplements and the possibility of bones, but only after an in-depth determination has  been made regarding the overall health of the animals’ digestive tracks. Additional supplements  required may also include calcium and glucosamine/chondroitin & fish oil, should their bone  health warrant it.  

One way you can provide for the needs of these two beautiful animals, as well as other precious  members of our facility, is to participate during the upcoming NWA  Gives Day, April 8th,  2021! Not only would you be providing loving support for your favorite special friend or friends, 

but you would allow us to demonstrate our appreciation for YOU… for making a difference in the  lives of our animals! Prizes and appreciation awards will range from park passes and gift shop  merchandise, to original paw print art give aways, and a free night’s stay in our exclusive on-site  lodging! Festivities will take place in person at our facility, as well as on-line, from 8:00 a.m. to  8:00 p.m., with live on-air broadcasts, and more! So don’t miss out! Mark your calendar now, for  this fun-filled day of celebration and festivities. See ya’ then!