Giving Tuesday 2018

Only Two Weeks Away!

November 15, 2018

‘Tis the season of giving and there’s no greater opportunity to give back than on November 27, Giving Tuesday. Coined as the official “global day of giving,” we will be asking you to #GiveHealth, #GiveHome, and ultimately #GiveRefuge to our animal residents as we use this 24 hours of charity to raise $35,000 for new veterinary and habitat maintenance equipment.

All of our animal residents require some form of animal intervention because we provide a Refuge for the old, the already-sick, and those who suffer from an assortment of health issues stemming from inbreeding or cruel declawing and defanging surgeries.

New veterinary equipment will allow us to not only address immediate maladies in a timely manner, but gives us the opportunity to do more thorough preventative care. A portable x-ray generator, which makes up $7,000 of our $35,000 goal will allow us to examine the extent of dental issues and perform regular check-ups on those prone to them. A $180 Laboteca Centrifuge and tubes will allow us to more accurately examine animals to detect infection, keep animals parasite-free, and should we need to, strategically treat with proper dewormers. We’re also raising money to stock our hospital with everyday essentials, such as resuscitation bags (small-$51, large $59.00) used to provide breathes for our patients during regular surgeries or medical emergencies.

Another thing all of our animal residents have in common is their need for safe, spacious, sturdy habitats. From building to accommodate new rescues, amending current habitats to stay in compliance with various laws, or doing regular maintenance on the homes of these large carnivores, we spend our fair share of time working on habitats.

Tool sets of sockets, screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers ($116.49), an impact wrench with a 6” anvil ($657.99), and even a service tablet ($380) will not only allow us to maintain the habitats themselves, but also keep our work vehicles up and running.

An individual has stepped forward with a $5,000 matching donation, meaning your dollars will go even farther on Giving Tuesday. There are multiple ways to give the gift of Refuge to our animal residents on November 27:

    • Make a donation the day-of on our website:
    • Create a Facebook fundraiser as early as you want, extending it through Giving Tuesday.
    • Mail checks Friday, November 23, to 239 Tiger Lane, Eureka Springs, AR, 72762.
    • Bring a donation to the gift shop the weekend before or the day-of, but denote that it’s for Giving Tuesday.
    • Ask your employer if they will match any donation you make.
    • Send personal emails, phone calls, text-messages, social media communications, or face-to-face requests to your loved ones to join us in #GivingHealth and #GivingHome.

Give For Giving Tuesday Early at

Life-Saving Surgery Update

Blackfire Recovering Comfortably

November 7, 2018

Blackfire is on the road to recovery after receiving life-saving emergency surgery at Kansas State University on Tuesday, November 6. The 2-year-old white tiger is currently staying in a recovery enclosure at our on-site veterinary hospital. He will spend two weeks there healing, receiving much-needed pain medication, and being closely observed by our staff veterinarian. After two weeks he will be evaluated to see if he is healed enough to return to his habitat and sisters.

On Friday, November 2, Turpentine Creek announced that Blackfire needed surgery due to a severe hiatal hernia. Dr. Kellyn Sweely had diagnosed Blackfire’s hernia but knew that we did not have the proper equipment or team to perform such an invasive surgery in our on-site veterinary hospital. The operation required a full team of anesthesiologists, specialized equipment, and a full veterinary team. We reached out to Dr. James Carpenter at KSU to oversee the surgery. We have worked with Dr. Carpenter and KSU in the past and know that he is the best in his field.

During the procedure, the KSU team found that Blackfire had a large hole in his diaphragm and that his stomach, spleen, colon, and intestines had pushed into his chest cavity. They believe that he had a birth defect that caused the diaphragm to be weak in a large section causing the hernia as he grew and had bowel issues related to his Metabolic Bone Disease. Luckily, we caught the hernia issue in time, and his intestines were still healthy. If his intestines or stomach had lost circulation, he would have died.

The KSU veterinary team was able to attach his stomach to his abdominal wall and close the hole in his diaphragm. As long as he rests throughout his two week recovery period, he should not have any lasting issues due to the hernia and live a long happy life here at the Refuge.

The cost for the surgery, aftercare, travel, and medication was estimated at $9,000. TCWR put a call out to our supporters on Friday to raise the money for the unexpected expense, and our donors quickly came to our aid. Within a few short hours, we had raised the needed amount to make sure Blackfire could get the care he desperately needed.

Thank you to all the supporters who liked, shared, commented, and donated to help Blackfire!

It is thanks to your support that we are able to give these animals a chance at a long, happy, healthy life with us.  We couldn’t do what we do without you!

Blackfire says “chuff chuff chuff,” which we are pretty sure means “thank you for saving my life!”

Emergency Surgery Needed

Give Blackfire A Fighting Chance

November 2, 2018

Our staff veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweely, discovered on Tuesday, October 30, that Blackfire, a two-year-old white tiger, has either a hiatal hernia or a diaphragmic hernia. After consulting with multiple veterinarians and veterinary schools, who confirmed Dr. Sweely’s diagnosis, it has become apparent that he needs extensive surgery to fix the issue as soon as possible. Because of the complexity of the operation, we cannot safely perform it at our on-site veterinary hospital. During the surgery, he will need a dedicated anesthesia team to assist in his breathing, monitor his heart and blood pressure throughout the procedure, as well as multiple tools and supplies that we do not currently have readily available. Without the surgery, his intestines will strangulate and he will die.

Our animal curator, Emily McCormack and on staff Veterinarian Dr. Kellyn Sweely, will be taking Blackfire to Kansas. The surgery is scheduled for 8 am on Tuesday, November 6. Dr. Sweely will be making the 720-mile round trip with Blackfire so that she can monitor his health.

We have received an estimate for the operation, transportation, aftercare, and medication for $9,000. This is an unexpected expense that comes when we are already desperately needing to fundraise to help cover higher winter bills. We need your help today to cover the expenses and make sure that Black Fire gets the help he needs before it advances beyond repair.

For the procedure, we have reached out to Kansas State University’s (KSU) Exotic, Wildlife & Zoo Animal expert, Dr. James Carpenter, who has agreed to oversee the surgery. Dr. Carpenter has advised and assisted our team many times in the past; he is the best in his field. KSU has taken care of many of our animals in previous circumstances and we have had good results working with that team. We know Blackfire will get the help he needs at KSU.

Upon arrival at KSU Blackfire will get a CT scan to help the surgical team evaluate which type of hernia they will be dealing with, our X-Rays can show a limited view of the issue. At this point, we cannot say if the hernia is congenital or caused by something else.

Two years ago, Turpentine Creek rescued 115 animals from a cub petting facility in Colorado, including Blackfire and his two sisters who suffer from severe metabolic bone disease. With the help and dedication of our team, the trio survived this precarious time in their lives. Black Fire and his siblings have grown into rambunctious teenagers with a strong will to survive. Due to the health issues caused by the Metabolic Bone Disease, Blackfire and his siblings spend more time than most of our other animals with our veterinarian.

We will have more information about the surgery in the upcoming days and will keep our supporters up-to-date on Blackfire’s health status. Hopefully, with the surgery, he will get to live a long, happy life here at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. We are eager to see him back on his feet and playing with his sisters in the near future.

Donate now and help us give Blackfire a fighting chance.

UPDATE: We reached our goal! Blackfire’s surgery is funded. 


Updating Habitat Continued

Project Near Completion

October 31, 2018

In late 2015, Turpentine Creek began working to upgrade our habitats, replacing old fencing, raising fence heights, and even rebuilding a few of our older habitats. It was a time consuming, labor intensive, and costly project, but it needed to be done due to changes in habitat regulations. The project was in full swing and nearly completed when it came to a screeching halt after we received the phone call that begun the Colorado Project. All but one habitat had been revamped when we had to shift our focus from fixing to building so that we could accommodate 34 new animals at the Refuge. Turpentine Creek got approval to hold off on the rebuild of the final habitat as long as no new animals were moved into it.

Three years, a brand new on-site veterinary hospital, 123 animals rescued, 2 animals rehomed to the Refuge, 3 new habitats built, and numerous smaller projects later and work on the final habitat is about to begin.

On Tuesday, October 30, Chuff, Abigail, and Athena were moved to the newly emptied habitat next to their old one. The team constructed a temporary ‘shoot’ to make the move from their former habitat to their new one easy. It took a little encouragement (a red boomer ball and some fun encouragement from Emily), but all three tigers were safely moved into their new habitat.

In the upcoming days, once the rain stops, the animal care team will cut down the current poles and wiring. The poles will be extended to 12 feet high with a 3 feet jump guard, and 4×4 inch wiring will be hung around the whole habitat. When this habitat is completed all 60 habitats will be up to regulation standards. We are excited to finalize this project. Since we began reconstruction of our habitats metal prices have risen 25%, meaning this habitat reconstruct will cost more than the previous ones. Please donate to our habitat fund to help mitigate the increased cost to rebuild this final habitat. 

On the Move

Bear Relocation

October 24, 2018

The bears at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge are on the move! This past week, six of our bears were relocated from 3 habitats across the property into their new forever homes! The six bears will now live in two large habitats down at rescue ridge.

On Sunday, TCWR team members moved Xena, Koda G, and Popper into the larger of the two habitats. Currently, Xena and Koda G live separately from Popper, but they will be introduced shortly after the habitat grand opening, which will happen this Sunday, October 28, 2019, at 12 pm. Introducing bears is not usually an issue, as long as they have plenty of space, which they will.

On Monday, we moved Holli, and Lolli. These two small black bear girls already live with Huggy, a Russian brown bear. Because of how big Huggy is, we decided to wait until Tuesday, to move Huggy.

While we had the bears sedated, our on-staff Veterinary, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, did a full examination for each bear. She assessed their overall health, ran blood work, took X-rays, microchipped them, and got a weight on most of them. Our the smallest black bear, Xena, weighed 220lbs. We did not get a weight on Huggy, since he was so heavy to lift and move, but we estimate that he weighs well over 800lbs.

All three moves went smoothly and all six bears are waiting, impatiently, to explore their new homes. They are currently spending the next few days in their new night houses, acclimating to the new environment. This Sunday, the public is invited to join us for a special habitat grand opening at noon. Visitors who attend will get a special hayride tour of rescue ridge and the bear habitats, along with the chance to see five of the six bears take their first steps into their forever homes.

The bear habitat project cost over $150,000 and took 18 months of dedicated hard work to complete. These habitats sit on a combined 3 acres of land and are our two largest habitats at the refuge. They are full of trees, natural enrichment, plenty of food to forage, pools, and more! We are excited that the project is done and cannot wait to see how the bears react. Please join us this Sunday for the grand opening, we hope to see you here.

Welcoming our newest resident


October 17, 2018

Today, we welcomed our newest resident, Jasmine, an 8-year-old tigress, that came to us from a zoo in Kansas. Jasmine was housed with her sister but the two were fighting. Since the facility didn’t have room to separate the two tigers they began searching for a new home for Jasmine. They had decided to rehome Jasmine instead of her sister because Jasmine is not a fan of large crowds and children.

Scott and Tanya Smith left Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge on Sunday evening to make the 900-mile round trip to pick up Jasmine early this week. They returned late Tuesday evening with Jasmine. We released her into her new habitat at Rescue Ridge first thing on Wednesday.

Jasmine will remain at Rescue Ridge due to her fear of crowds and children. It is our goal to make sure that our animals are comfortable in their new homes. We are excited to see how Jasmine adapts her new home here at the Refuge. She is available for adoptions currently and still needs one sponsor. 

We are glad that we could offer Jasmine a forever home with us. Stay tuned as we learn more about Jasmine’s personality and for updates on how she is settling in. You can see Jasmine when you take one of our exclusive behind the scenes tours. 

Jasmine sleeping in her night house shortly after unloading. She has access to her yard and soon will have access to her new habitat. A short quarantine period is need for observation.


Bear Habitat Invitation

Grand Opening

October 11, 2018

You are invited to join us on October 28, at 12 pm for the official grand opening of our two large, natural, bear habitats! Thanks to our wonderful supporters, we have finally completed the two largest habitats on property! Filled with trees, in-ground pools, rock formations, and plenty of natural enrichment, these two habitats are ideal to house rambunctious bears.

Popper, Xena, and Koda G will be sharing our 2 1/2 acre habitat. At first, the Xena and Koda will rotate days with Popper, but we hope this will only be a temporary situation. We hope to introduce the three within a few weeks after the habitat release. This way Popper get the chance to teach the cubs how to be bears. Huggy, Holli, and Lolly will share the other habitat. All three will be released together on the day of the habitat grand opening.

Our hope is to eventually add live video cameras down in the bear habitat area, tracking collars so we can keep an eye on how the bears use the habitats, and offer up research opportunities to colleges that might want to study the behaviors of our captive bears. These habitats are a great opportunity not just for the bears that will be living in them but for the scientific community.

This event is open to the public. Normal entry fees apply but no additional fee will be charged. Please make sure you show up before 12 pm so that you can catch the trolley down to the bear habitat area.

Volunteer Experience Part 2

International Volunteering

October 3, 2018

I have visited several Wildlife Centres around the world. I remember asking a Swedish volunteer why they traveled all the way from Sweden to Malaysia to volunteer at this certain Turtle Conservation Centre. They told me because this was one of those Centres where they could be reasonably well involved in the operations of the Centre. One might not be able to be as involved in a Big / International Centre.

Spending 30 hours to travel from Singapore to London, to Chicago to Arkansas, and spending a good week Volunteering at Turpentine Creek – I now understand what my Swedish friend meant. We appreciated having the very behind the scenes look we got Volunteering at Turpentine Creek. We got to shadow the Animal Care team in charge of the Big Cat exhibits, help to prepare food and medications for the Animals, build a fence for the new Bears habitat, make Enrichment/toys for the Big Cats.

If you haven’t already, do check out my fellow Animal Loving travel buddy, Dee’s recount of all the things we helped do and learned at Turpentine Creek! We were happy to help with any little task, out of our usual work lives, to do something for the Animals. One would not get this kind of access that we got at Turpentine Creek just anywhere.

It was also very educational. The Big Cats at Turpentine Creek were all rescued from some sort of sad, dire situation – results and rejects of the Exotic Pet Trade, which we learned about in depth from Hannah, our Turpentine Creek host & Wildlife Interpreter at the Refuge. A strong believer in the importance of Education to help remedy the sources of problems of the Exotic Pet Trade, Hannah championed the formation of the Education Department at Turpentine Creek.

Hannah was warm, welcoming & dedicated to answering our questions, discussing Animal Welfare issues, controversial topics.. at a pace we were comfortable with. There are hard conversations to have about what we as people like to do, and what is best for the Animals – which I think everyone needs their own time to come to face with.

As an avid photographer, spending a whole week, days and nights at the Refuge, gave me ample time to photograph the Big Cats. They tend to be more active early in the morning, in the evening, and on cold rainy days. It was challenging to shoot through the well-secured double fencing the Animals were housed in. But it was a challenge I welcomed to capture these animals as beautifully as I could to inspire people to visit Turpentine Creek.

Photographers usually seek a picture perfect environment for photos, but I have come to understand that a picture perfect place might not always be as ethical as they claim to be. Representing Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, I look forward to promoting Turpentine Creek as a Wildlife Volunteer Destination and sending more Volunteer groups to Turpentine Creek.

We are scheduled for 3 talks upon our return to Singapore. The third including Hannah herself from the Refuge, who will be flying 30hrs all the way to Singapore in Asia to share personally about Turpentine Creek.

We are happy to be Voices for the Animals, and would like to say a Big Thank You to Everyone we met at Turpentine Creek, as well as our amazing host Hannah – for having us, doing all the hard, Amazing work they do for the Animals.

Sign up to volunteer at Turpentine Creek on their Volunteer page!

Written By: Nicole aka Nikkiko – Photographer, Animal Lover, Expedition Leader – Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours – Singapore

Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance Recap

2018 Conference at TCWR

September 27, 2018

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge hosted the annual Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance Conference in beautiful downtown Eureka Springs. Over two days attendees participated in 25 panels about animal care, habitat building, education, safety, and more. Representatives from sanctuaries all over the United States and supporting organizations such as Tigers in America, IFAW, Outreach for Animals, and the Human Society, came together to collaborate, share ideas, and discuss the growing need of true sanctuaries.

The Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance allows true sanctuaries, like Turpentine Creek, to meet up and exchange ideas, discuss new methods of animal care, learn about different veterinary issues, find ways to work together, advocate with one voice, learn about what is happening in the field, and coordinate with each other on potential rescues. Although it is a relatively new group, having been formed in 2017, the sanctuaries have worked together in the past through organizations such as IFAW and TIA.

This year saw over 60 attendees, double the number from last year. Speakers came from all walks of life; our very own Curator, Emily McCormack, gave a presentation about habitat building and our Education team, Beckie Moore and Hannah Wherry, discussed the importance of educational programming at sanctuaries.

Overall this year’s conference was a success. After the conference was over, Turpentine Creek invited all the guests to come to tour the Refuge. They got the chance to see the animals, observe enrichment, behavioral training, learn about our custom feeding dishes, and meet our team including our interns. It was a great experience for the TCWR team and Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance visitors alike.

We would like to thank the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance for choosing Turpentine Creek to host this year’s event. It took a lot of hard work to plan and execute the event, but overall, it was an amazing educational experience. We appreciate all the businesses who assisted us in Eureka Springs. The Mayor of Eureka Springs, Butch Berry, gave the introductory speech, welcoming the attendees to the event and the city. Having the support of our community is vital to our success as a refuge and we appreciate everything they do to help us continue our mission to rescue and care for big cats in need. Without their help, we could have never crafted such a wonderful event. We look forward to attending the 2019 conference. It will take all of us and our supporters to put an end to the abuse of big cats across the US.

Click here to learn more about the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance on their website. 

Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance Steering Committee 2018

Sipping for Sanctuary

Inaugural Event

September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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