Building A Better Foundation

Protecting The Future Of The Animals At TCWR

June 24, 2020

Turpentine Creek loves and appreciates all of our donors; you are amazing people who help us to care for these animals every single day! Yet, the global pandemic COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of recurring donors to our animals’ and Refuge’s future. Recurring donations give us a gift beyond just financial sustainability and stability; they give us peace of mind and hope when things can be a bit unsteady in our world.

When we had to temporarily close our doors to the public to protect our animals and team members, we quickly realized that our current income source was unstable. During the spring and summer, we rely heavily on lodging and admissions to cover our costs and in the winter time our donors step up, donating approximately half of our annual income. This has always helped to cover our expenses year-round, but this year, COVID-19 hit right as we were gearing up for our spring and summer visitors.

We were lucky; we have been planning for emergencies for years, tucking away extra money here and there to build a small emergency fund. It is due to this pre-planning, and the fact that our amazing supporters came together in a big way to donate during our time of need, that we were able to make it through the closure and find a safe way to reopen to the public. Now, that emergency fund has been greatly depleted and COVID-19 has not gone away. Although we do not know what the future holds with COVID-19, there is a lot of evidence that a resurgence is coming, and we need to be prepared for that possibility.

While we were closed we reduced all costs to a minimum, going to essential employees, reducing spending, stopping new projects, etc. and found out that it would cost about $140,000 a month to run the Refuge when we are closed to the public and on a reduced staff; that number increases when we are open to the public even on a limited capacity. Normally, operating at full capacity it is about $200,000 – $225,000 a month.

With this in mind, we began to look at ways to protect our animals if another emergency were to happen, or COVID-19 creates a situation where we are forced to temporarily close again. The solution is to create a steady, reliable, income source that does not fluctuate based on the season or visitor count: monthly recurring donations.

Monthly recurring donations creates a steady foundation to fall back on, to be reassured that in rain, shine, sleet, hail, or global pandemic we can continue to provide quality care for our animal residents. These donations allow us to plan ahead, purchase food when needed, rescue animals, and continue advocating for their future- all things that cannot be paused even when it seems as though the world has.

Currently, we receive a little over $10,000 a month in recurring donations. We have set a goal to add 200 new recurring donors between now and September 1. Can you help us reach this goal?

Setting up a monthly donation of $5, $10, or $25 (less than the cost of most streaming services!) will protect the animals at Turpentine Creek.

Monthly recurring donations are just small automatic debits that add up to a lot of money for the animals! 

  • $5 a month = $60 a year
  • $10 a month = $120 a year
  • $25 a month = $300 a year
  • $50 a month = $600 a year

Your ‘bite sized’ monthly donations go a long way over an entire year! 

Now, more than ever, please help us give our animal residents a stable and sustainable future. Click here to set your monthly recurring donation up today!

Sunshine, Summertime, Sanctuary, And Social Distancing

Helping The Refuge Amid A Pandemic

June 17, 2020

Turpentine Creek has been reopen to the public for two weeks. We have had to make many changes on how we lead our tours and how we interact with our visitors due to COVID-19. This has been a learning process, and will continue to evolve and adjust as we encounter new challenges. 

Our education and animal care team members are still guiding our tours, offering an informative and educational experience for people of all ages. There have been some challenges; wearing a mask might not be fun but is necessary to protect the animals and their human caretakers from this dangerous virus. Tickets can be pre-booked now, which will save you a lot of time during check-in and guarantee your spot at your desired tour time. Although we do still offer walk-up tours, our tour sizes are limited. If the tour is already full you will have to wait until the next tour with available spots so we highly recommend booking ahead of time. As always, please arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled tour since groups leave right at the top of every hour. 

We are entering the warmer months of our season; during this time it is vital to come prepared when visiting. Wear light clothing, sunscreen, a hat, proper shoes, and to drink plenty of water. It can get very warm in Arkansas as we get into late June, July, and August. Please make sure to check the weather before coming and be prepared for heat.  If you are feeling unwell at any time during your tour, please don’t be embarrassed to speak up. We’ve all been there, and we want to keep you safe and comfortable! 

We have begun offering tours in our brand new trams! These open-air trams allow for airflow and shade on hot days. They allow for better viewing of the animals, more seating, and a more engaging environment for our riding tours. In order to properly social distance, seats are more limited than usual so we highly recommend reserving ahead of time at tcwr.org/visit. As with regular tours, please make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before the tour time. If you wish to take a 10 AM tour, for example, the tour leaves right at 10 AM, so plan to arrive by 9:45 AM. 

Early tours are still the most ideal on hot days because as with every summer, our animal residents prefer to chill in their dens or snooze in the shade during the hottest part of the day. 

We look forward to seeing you this summer. As COVID progresses we will continue to adjust and adapt to protect the animals, our team, and our visitors. We hope to see you all soon!

Please consider helping us build a solid foundation for the Refuge; recurring donations help us have a stable source of income that protects the animals during uncertain times, like a global pandemic. Your monthly recurring donation of $5 or $10 – less than the price of a monthly TV streaming service – helps us care for all of the animals that call Turpentine Creek home. Just go to tcwr.org/donate, enter the amount you wish to give, and make sure the recurring donation is selected. 

Sanctuary Caregiver Day

Celebrating Turpentine Creek’s Animal Caregivers

June 10, 2020

This Friday, June 12, 2020, is the fourth annual Sanctuary Caregiver Day. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance started this day of celebration to honor the unsung heroes who work tirelessly through extreme heat, storms, cold, holidays, birthdays, etc. to make sure survivors of the exotic animal trade can live out their lives in peace and comfort at their rescue forever home.

Now, more than ever, we should celebrate these essential workers, who not only work to care for the animals but also to protect them during this global pandemic.

Our animal care team not only completely isolated themselves for two months, not leaving the Refuge for any reason, they also spend every day working in the heat, wearing hot masks, maintaining habitats, feeding the animals, avoiding crowds of people, and doing their best to enforce social distancing to keep the animals safe from exposure.

Although we are now reopen to the public, we are still taking extra precautions to protect our animals. Team members are required to wear a mask when working around the animals, in their habitats, or with their food, and they are sanitizing their spaces and hands more frequently. Team members are checked daily for temperatures and symptoms of COVID.

Our team guides tours, with enforced social distancing and visitor mask requirements, so that they can help to educate the public about the plight of big cats in captivity and the big cat trade.

Seven animal care team members and fourteen animal care interns provide food, water, clean habitats, enrichment, and pools for the animals every day no matter the circumstance.

It takes a village to provide care for these animals, it takes an entire team of individuals with various jobs to help support the work the keepers are giving. Fundraisers, maintenance staff, educators, advocators, digital promotions, social media, volunteers, donors, etc. it takes the work of many people to care for these survivors of the big cat trade. We are grateful to every one of the people who are caring for the animals from the ‘boots on the ground’ animal keepers to the people answering emails. Every person makes a difference in the lives of these animals.

We ask you to join us in celebrating our animal caretakers on Friday, show your support and appreciation for all that they do. We will be promoting our animal caretakers throughout Friday, featuring our keepers and showing our appreciation. Please join us on this day of celebration.

Help show your appreciation for our caretakers by setting up a recurring donation. By donating on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, you help us be sustainable and plan for the future. With recurring donations, we have a reliable base of income that we can count on when the unexpected happens, like COVID. Please help create a better future for the big cats that call our Refuge home.

*Photos taken prior to reopen when team members were in isolation and were not required to wear masks. 

Turpentine Creek Reopen To The Public

Sunshine, Stripes, and Safety

June 3, 2020

For the first time in two months, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has welcomed visitors onto our property. On June 1, 2020, the Refuge reopened to the public with some limitations and restrictions in place to protect our animals, team members, and visitors from the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporarily, things will look very different around the Refuge. 

Turpentine Creek has used the two months of closure to make some changes, improvements, and temporary adjustments to protect our animals. Temporary gates and a temperature-checking station at the entrance have been set up to encourage social distancing and protect our team members. Everyone ages 3 and up are required to wear a mask. If guests do not have their own, we can provide them.

Tours are being operated at a limited capacity, but it does have some perks! We are capping tours at 60 participants each, broken up into groups of 10 and limiting tour times to 10 AM, 12 PM, and 2 PM. While walk-ins will be welcome, the only way to be certain you can go on our desired tour is to reserve ahead of time at tcwr.org/visit

Because we do not have a safe way to conduct riding tours, guests will not have the option to ride our tram or take a speciality in-person tour at this time. We hope soon being in close-quarters will not pose as much of a risk as it does now. For the time being, those wishing to take a speciality tour can do so from the comfort of their own home with private virtual tours. 

We have reopened our lodging accommodations as well for overnight stays at the Refuge. Masks must be worn when guests are outside their rooms within the vicinity of our animal residents. We are following Arkansas State Health Department Guidelines for the hospitality industry, meaning we have raised our cleaning and sanitizing procedures, which is requiring a 24-hour gap between check-outs and check-ins. This means lodging dates are more limited than usual, but you can expect a safe, clean environment when you visit. You can view our rooms, pricing, and make a reservation here.

We are very thankful to our donors who stepped up and helped us get through the last two months. Without your support, we would not have been able to spend this time working to protect our animal residents and team members from COVID exposure. The decision to close was easy to make, since we are here to protect the animals, but it did leave us with some challenges for financial stability. Because we are at a limited capacity for the numbers of guests we can host daily, your donations continue to be vital to our animal residents. Please visit tcwr.org/donate to see how you can provide support; you can also “visit” the Refuge from the comfort of your own home by taking a private virtual tour or send a message to a loved one through our Big Cat Call-Out program.  

Thank you to everyone who has been so gracious regarding our temporary regulations. We appreciate your commitment to the health and well-being of our animal residents and look forward to seeing you on your next “Africa in the Ozarks” adventure. 

For more information on our guidelines, or to purchase tickets, click here

 

The Source Of All White Tigers

The Day That It All Started

May 27, 2020

Turpentine Creek is home to 45 tigers, 18 of which are white. These beautiful animals have all been rescued from backyard breeders or pseudo-sanctuaries that exist for the sole purpose of using them to make a profit.

White tigers today do not exist in the wild; they can only be found in captivity. The same could not be said 70 years ago, when white tigers could be found sporadically in India. On this day in 1951, the Maharaja of Rewa joined a hunting expedition in the jungles of India with the hopes of successfully finding and killing tigers. During the expedition, a two-year-old white tiger was captured after his mother and siblings, who were orange, were slain by the hunters. After the killings, this juvenile cat fled into a cave for protection. Fascinated by the white tiger, the hunters followed him, built a cage at the entrance of the cave, and forced him out with smoke. Once trapped, he was transported back to a spare palace of the Maharaja, where he was given the name Mohan. At the palace he was housed with access to a private sleeping area and a courtyard. Not long after the tiger’s arrival, the Maharaja ran an ad in the New York Times trying to sell him. No buyer wanted to pay what was being asked, an estimated $28,000, and the young cub remained at the palace in Rewa until his passing in 1970.

The Maharaja was fascinated by Mohan, and therefore wanted to create more white tigers. His original attempt to do so had him breeding Mohan to an orange tigress, Begum, who was brought to the palace. First, Begum was introduced to Mohan which produced ten orange-colored cubs. Mohan was then bred with one of his daughters, as the Maharaja was desperate to create white cubs. This inbreeding resulted in four white babies, the first white tigers to be born in captivity. These four were then sold to buyers around the world. These buyers were the National Zoological Park in Washington D.C., Delhi Zoological Park in New Delhi, India, and the Kolkata Zoological Park in Kolkata, India.

However, this wide distribution of those four white cubs was only the beginning. In 1970, nineteen years after Mohan was captured, the captive white tiger population increased from zero to 37; These 37 do not include the vast majority of cubs that did not live long after birth, due to the severe inbreeding and the associated health issues. In the current captive white tiger population, this trend of inbreeding is still prevalent, resulting in many genetic defects. These defects can include crossed eyes, club feet, cleft palates, organ deformities, and spinal deformities, among other issues.

While these animals may be beautiful, they do not occur naturally and therefore do not serve a purpose for conservation. Species survival plans, created by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), do not selectively breed, or inbreed, for specific recessive genes in order to avoid anomalous internal and external conditions of the offspring. This differs from their mission of positively affecting the conservation of the wildlife in their breeding programs. TCWR is not an AZA accredited facility, and therefore does not participate in the breeding of our animals. We are strictly a forever home for them and do not support the inbreeding of white tigers.

69 years ago, a white tiger cub was captured and bred for entertainment purposes. Today these white tigers are still being bred solely for that same purpose. Every single white tiger that exists in the world today, can be traced back to Mohan, the tiger that started it all.

The Bear Necessities Of Life

Black Bears Vs Brown Bears

May 13, 2020

Recently, as our bears have become more active and are featured more on our social media stream, we’ve been getting questions about the difference between black bears, like Koda G and Xena, and brown bears, like Huggy and Bam Bam. With 10 bears calling our Refuge home, we thought now would be a great time to help our supporters distinguish between these non-feline residents of Turpentine Creek.

There are eight species of bear across the world, but only the brown and black bear can be found in North America. Turpentine Creek is currently home to 10 bears who cannot be released into the wild: 2 brown bears and 8 black bears. When they are side-by-side, like roommates Thunder and Harley, they might look like two different species of bears, just because of their fur colors. But, they are actually both black bears.

SO, HOW CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE? 

Your first thought may have been to determine the species based on their color, but not all black bears are black in coloration. They can range from black to gray to cinnamon to white depending on the location! This means for brown bears and black bears who are brown in color, it makes it little harder to tell which species the bear is if they are living in the same area. But do not worry, there are many other characteristics to help you distinguish between the two!

Brown bears, like Turpentine Creek residents Bam Bam and Huggy, have very distinctive traits aiding in the identification of the species.

  • They have a large shoulder hump made of muscle to help make them powerful diggers.
  • Their claws are thick, long, and slightly curved.
  • Ears are short and round.
  • Their face is dish shaped
  • When looking at the bear from the side, their rear end is lower than their shoulders. 
  • They are larger than black bears, standing 3 to 5 feet at the shoulder when on all fours.

If you have seen Turpentine Creek’s resident black bears, you may notice that they look a little different than the brown bears. Black bears also have distinct characteristics for their species.

  • Black bears have no shoulder hump, they are level or flat with the rest of their back.
  • Their claws are short and curved.
  • Ears are tall and oval shaped. 
  • Their face is straight from between the eyes to the tip of the muzzle. 
  • If you were to look at a black bear from the side, their rear end is higher than their shoulders. 
  • They can stand 2 to 3.5 feet tall at the shoulders when on all fours. 

The National Park Service has an interactive image to see these characteristics side by side.

Although Tyson Foods donates a lot of meat for our animals, our bears are omnivores, meaning that much of their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and grains. We have to purchase the food to feed our bears even during our closure. Could you help us feed our bears by setting up a recurring donation of $10 or $25?

Your Support Saves Lives

28th Anniversary Celebration Fundraiser A Success

May 6, 2020

On Tuesday, May 5, the supporters of Turpentine Creek came together to celebrate our 28th anniversary. Due to our temporarily closure due to COVID-19 the celebration was moved online, but it was still a wonderful day of like-minded animal lovers getting together to support our Refuge.

Although our official anniversary was May 1, we decided to host our celebration on May 5 due to the pop-up national fundraising day #GivingTuesdayNow – a national day of giving to help support nonprofits during COVID-19. Throughout the day we featured live video, enrichment, games, memory posts, and of course a fun, engaging environment for our supporters to show their support of our mission.

Without your support and donations we could not do what we do daily, nor could we save the lives of survivors of the big cat trade.

Initially, we had set a goal to raise $28,000, but some of our supporters stepped up and offered various matching donation that equaled $23,450! Because of this, we changed our goal to $42,000 the day before our event! Our supporters rallied behind us to not only meet that goal but also surpass it! In total, we raised $50,598 in a single day of giving!

We offered 63 items on our online auction, most of which were items made by our animals such as paw paintings, boomer ball key chains, and spool flowerpots. These unique items were very popular and overall our auction raised $10,637, which is over 20% of our total raised throughout the day!

These donations are a much-needed boost to our finances. With our temporary closure, our income has dropped over 35%. We luckily had some money set back incase of emergencies but that amount is quickly being depleted. We have reduced our expenses to help manage costs but are still running at a deficit.

It costs approximately $140,000 – $150,000 per month to just maintain our most basic expenses such as salaries, utility bills, and buy basic supplies. Luckily, Tyson has donated enough meat for us to provide our basic big cat diets, but we still have to purchase produce for the bears and meat for our animals on special diets. We are also paying for medicine for our animals and the supplements that go on the food.

Thank you to everyone who has been supporting us over the last 28 years. You have helped us with our mission, saved lives, and are helping us create a better future for big cats in need. Hopefully, in the near future laws will be passed and facilities, like ours, will no longer be necessary.

We still need your help, please consider setting up a recurring monthly donation to help us get through our COVID temporary closure at www.tcwr.org/donate

What TCWR Is Doing To Help

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 24, 2020

In the face of the abuse and neglect thousands of exotic cats and bears experience around the country, Turpentine Creek acts as a forever home and place of refuge. Currently home to 88 animal residents, most of which have been victims of the exotic pet trade or entertainment industry, we are constantly working to increase public awareness about the plight of big cats in captivity.  

As a non-profit, TCWR is reliant completely on donations and the revenue brought in from admissions and supporters to cover the cost of operations. We are not open with the purpose of showcasing our animals. With the price of admission, one is able to come into the Refuge to learn about our mission. Exploring our Discovery Area and going on a guided tour are both educational experiences that are geared toward sharing the stories of our animal residents and their rescues. Our team also offers educational experiences for school groups and events onsite and offsite, to increase our outreach to more than just those that come visit the Refuge in person. These opportunities may look different depending on the occasion, but one thing that is always mentioned, are rescue stories.  

By telling these stories, we are able to teach our guests about the abuse and neglect that face so many exotic animals across the country. Our team does not just cover rescues, they also teach about the realities of cub-petting, white tigers, exotic cat hybrids, private ownership laws, and most importantly, how the public can help make a difference for these animals.  

With 41 USDA licensed cub-petting facilities, immeasurable interactive roadside zoos and psuedo-sanctuaries, and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 big cats in captivity across the United States, public awareness of the abuse that accompanies these situations is imperative. It is the vision of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to put an end to the Exotic Pet Trade though public education. By ending the Exotic Pet Trade and ending the use of big cats in the entertainment industry, true sanctuaries like us, would no longer be necessary. That is completely fine with us, it would mean no more animals are in need of rescue.

Animal cruelty of all shapes and sizes is heartbreaking and detrimental. Turpentine Creek works alongside other Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accredited facilities and animal welfare organizations to put an end to the suffering of exotic animals in captivity. But, most importantly, our mission would not be possible without our supporters and visitors who become advocates for the animals that cannot speak for themselves. Please lend your voice to these animals by reaching out to your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want to end private ownership and animal abuse. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would do this and is just waiting to be voted on. Visit our Advocacy Page today to help us protect them!

Private Ownership

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 22, 2020

Sadie Tiger was privately owned and lived in this dilapidated cage until her rescue.

In the United States, it is often cheaper to buy a tiger or lion cub than it is to purchase a purebred dog. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has rescued numerous animals that were owned as pets, a lion cub purchased for $175 at an animal show in Missouri being one of them. Once the lion became too much to handle, the owners decided that they could no longer care for a pet lion and surrendered it to TCWR in 2007. Since being founded in 1992, TCWR has experienced hundreds of similar owners surrendering their animals to us. Every year, people around the country decide that they want a cute, cuddly exotic animal as a pet. By purchasing these animals, it continues to fuel a multi-billion-dollar industry. The real cost comes at the expense of the exotic cats, whose lives will consist of only living in captivity with owners unfit to care for them.

Private buyers quickly realize that wild animals cannot be tamed by simply hand-raising them. Big cats are apex predators, and will inevitably start to use their teeth and claws as they are meant to. They become too much for their owners and are sold to roadside zoos or euthanized. Big cats, and other large exotic animals, cost over $10,000 per year for food and even more for adequate husbandry and veterinary care. Many animals live their lives with minimal health standards due to this high expense. Obtaining a license for private ownership and exhibiting to the public is regulated by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class C exhibitor’s license. This entails a $10 application fee in many states and paying an annual fee ranging from $30-300 depending on the number of animals owned. While this might seem like a small price, in some states there are no regulations regarding exotic cat private ownership whatsoever. Making identifying private owners and exact numbers incredibly difficult.

Sadie Tiger now enjoying her new spacious habitat at TCWR

When a tiger is owned as a pet, and not being exhibited to the public, a USDA permit is not required. This is regulated by each individual state and does not protect the animal underneath the Animal Welfare Act or any governmental regulations. The USDA Animal, Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a set of minimum requirements that apply to “certain warm-blooded animals used for research, exhibition, and commerce.” These requirements are not species specific and apply to ALL warm-blooded animals, from rodents and birds to tigers and elephants, and therefore do little to offer protection to these animals. USDA regulations do have an up-side. They allow for the tracking of dangerous exotic wildlife in the United States. This is because exhibitors, any facility possessing animals and open to the public, and private licensees must provide animal inventories and are subjected to inspections by this governing body. Thanks to these reports and inspections, we are able to know that approximately 96% of the big cats in the United States are in private ownership and roadside zoos, with 4% kept in accredited zoos and sanctuaries.

Izzy was one of 3 tigers privately owned. She was declawed and has needed 4 corrective surgeries since her rescue to fix the botched declaw.

Without licensing, there are no requirements for animal inventories, or inspections of the facility where they are kept. Private owners are also not required to provide any information such as sale or transfer of tigers, birth, death, animal welfare, etc. USDA inventories show that there are 341 licensees with the USDA keeping approximately 1,903 tigers in the US since 2016. That means that the estimated other 5,000 tigers are kept by private owners, with very little regulation by operating outside of federal regulation.

It is time NOW to redirect the publics’ attention to legitimate tiger conservation initiatives, and steer away from their exploitation for entertainment and private ownership.

Add your voice to our Advocacy Page to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. This Federal Bill will BAN all private ownership and cub petting in the entire United States:

Click here and tell your Congress to Protect Big Cats!

Road Side Zoos

Animal Cruelty Awareness Week

April 20, 2020

It is Animal Cruelty Awareness Week and Turpentine Creek wants to raise awareness about the life of exotic felines being held in backyards and roadside zoos.

Roadside zoos exist all over the country with one motive: money. Many are found along busy roads, meant to be a quick stop for tourists. But, they can also be drive-through safaris, traveling zoos, and petting zoos. They usually give an interactive experience, luring people in with the options to feed animals or engage in hands-on interaction. Sometimes, roadside zoos are disguised as “sanctuaries” or “rescues”. These titles create the illusion that these facilities are rescues, and that by partaking in their activities, you are helping the animals. Animals in these facilities are not rescues but bought from notorious breeders or bred by the facilities themselves.

Roadside zoos often employ people with no education or expertise in the care of animals. Because of the lack of knowledge, the living conditions for the animals tend to be horrifying. To conserve money and space, animal enclosures may be built with no thought of the needs of the species. Oftentimes, animals have no escape from the weather. In some cases, the enclosures are not big enough for them to move or even stand to their full height. Some enclosures may experience crowding, causing stress if not managed properly. Enclosures may not be cleaned on a regular schedule, leading to an excess of feces and rotting food. This becomes a breeding ground for insects and bacteria that spread disease.

Exotic felines have very particular, and expensive, dietary and nutritional needs. Because of the large price tag associated with a proper diet, animals in pseudo-facilities are oftentimes malnourished, developing health issues. They may be overfed, underfed, or not fed on a regular basis at all. If an animal does become ill, there is typically a high mortality rate due to many symptoms of illnesses or diseases not being recognized or being treated improperly. Proper medical care is typically nonexistent due to the lack of knowledge and steep price of veterinary care and medicines. These questionable tactics lead to sick animals suffering for a long period of time before they receive treatment, or even pass away.

There may be zoos that provide clean enclosures and adequate food, but do not meet the complex requirements for wild animals in captivity. There are a number of needs that need to be met from exercise to privacy. Any facility that keeps wild animals for the purpose of human entertainment and amusement is not helping the animal, but merely exploiting them. Roadside zoos are not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In the United States alone, less than 10% of animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are accredited by AZA.

Since there are so many of these roadside zoos, how does one differentiate a true facility from a roadside zoo? Sanctuaries are strictly that, a sanctuary, or place of refuge for animals who have been abused or neglected. AZA zoos have a breeding program in place called Species Survival Plans. These plans aid in conservation of animals whose populations are extremely low in the wild. We understand that it can be difficult to know the difference on your own, so Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has created a True Sanctuary Checklist to help you out! One of the most important things to know is that no true sanctuary will buy, sell, breed, sell or offer hands-on interaction with their animals. By using the questions on the True Sanctuary Checklist as guidelines, it makes learning about facilities and their true motives more straightforward. Researching before you go to any animal facility can make the biggest difference for these animals.