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.

Volunteer Experience

A Visitor Volunteer Perspective of TCWR

Waking up to Lions caroling and watching tigers play in the early morning are two experiences I am sure to miss when I leave Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

For a number of years, I have followed few of the big cat rescue groups in social media always marveling at the photos and videos of these magnificent creatures and the tremendous work done by the people who look after them. I was delighted when I saw there was an opportunity to be with these cats in person and knew in my heart that it was something I could not pass.

So I packed my bags and started my adventure in Singapore with another fellow animal lover Nicole. After 30 hours of flying, we were greeted by Hannah our very lovely host at the airport. We were first taken to our accommodation on site and from the get-go I was impressed. I will let the photos do the talking but you’d agree that these tents look pretty awesome.

On top of the glamping tents, there are wide of variety of accommodations options that cater for all needs. Best of all its pet-friendly, so if you can, do bring your pooch along ☺ For more information about accommodation opportunities visit TCWR website https://www.turpentinecreek.org/stay-with-us/view-all/

So here is what we got up to during our stay here.

Guided tour

We went on a guided tour given by the Wildlife interpreter Hannah. These tours are a great way to learn about each of the animals, why they are in the refuge, the multitude of problems caused by people keeping exotic animals as pets and the entertainment industry (cub petting, taking selfies, circus, and movies). While I was really excited to see these animals up close ‘well as close as you should get to a wild animal’ I was sadden by the depth of issues. The numerous health problems suffered due to inbreeding, cubs been taken away from mothers too early and to know there are more of these magnificent creatures living in captivity than in the wild. Learn more https://www.turpentinecreek.org/sanctuary/

Getting our hands dirty

The animals at TCWR eat up to 500-700 pounds a day. That is a lot of food prep. Each animal also gets a mix of medication and supplements based on their individual needs that are mixed into their food. Nicole and I got the opportunity to help out preparing the food which was a lot of fun. Even though TCWR is a big cat refuge they also have few bears who needed forever homes. We help with the construction of the new bear enclosures. We were lucky to be in the refuge during the World lion day. We helped to make enrichment for the cats and watch them play with it. Yes, they do play like your house cat but the difference is they will eat you <https://www.turpentinecreek.org/big-cat-pets/> I was reminded of this every day by Lakota one of the Ti-linger who stalked me – I suspect due to my knee injury.

A bit about the team

The animal care staff work rain, sunshine or snow to take care of these animals. Their days include cleaning the enclosures, feeding the animals, food prep, building enclosures.

The refuge also has a veterinary hospital that they perform medical care. This facility is really important given the health issues these animals have due to abuse in captivity.

Another very important aspect at TCRW is education and outreach. Lack of awareness is a significant reason why people keeping wild animals in captivity, cub pet or take selfies. Education is an important way to raise awareness among the community and hopefully put a stop to the abuse that these animal go through.

Reflection

In the short time I spent in TCWR I learned many things and there are things we can all do to help these animals.

  • Visit a true sanctuary Cub petting, taking selfies, seeing them perform is riddled with abuse and cruelty. These animals are not pets and breeding in captivity don’t help conservation. When you are planning to include an animal encounter on your next holiday please do your research and make sure you only visit true sanctuaries.
  • We can make a difference every day One of the biggest threats to big cats in the wild is habitat loss due to deforestation. Palm oil is one of the industries that have a significant impact on habitats Tigers live in. By purchasing Palm oil-free and/or sustainable products we can make a huge difference to the plight of these animals in the wild.

Finally, was the 30 hours of flying worth it. For me, it has been an experience I would remember forever. But don’t take my word for it pack your bags and see it for yourself. For more pictures, visit http://AnimalEncounterWT.com/Turpentine

You don’t have to travel across the world to volunteer at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, even locals can get the experience of a lifetime helping at Turpentine Creek by signing up to volunteer. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities on the Volunteer page. 

You can also see her photo gallery at https://www.animalencounterwt.com/turpentine

Written By: Dharani Perera – US Big Cats Volunteer – Animal Encounter Wildlife Tours – Singapore

Ethical Tourism Destination

Creating a Better World One Vacation at a Time

August 20, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is hard at work to change the lives of not only our animals but our visitors! Changing the mindset and helping people make ethical choices when planning their vacation starts right here. Before most people plan a vacation, they do a little research to find the best, most fun, exciting, and affordable places to make their get-aways memorable.

Luckily, the mindset of many travelers is shifting. A new term “Ethical Tourism” has been popping up more often in the travel industry. Ethical Tourism means thinking about the consequences of your actions as a tourist on the ecosystem, environment, wildlife, local people, and local economy. Finding Ethical Tourism Destinations when planning a trip means you are helping others, while still getting the chance to have a wonderful vacation.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge works hard to be an Ethical Tourism Destination. Our hourly tours not only allow our visitors to see exotic animals but also educates the public about the plight of big cats in captivity. Our new education initiative expands on that with additional programs and activities scheduled throughout the week, that also talk about wildlife and environmental conservation. Entry fees, lodging costs, and gift shop sales help to keep Turpentine Creek running so that 100% of donations can be put directly towards the care of the animals living at the refuge. We are a hands-off facility, making sure we are always doing what is best for the animals that call the Refuge home.

There are dozens of “sanctuaries”, “zoos”, and “rescues” around the country touting their rescued animals and letting visitors get up close and personal with their big cat residents. They allow people to pet their big cats or get photos with cubs. Places like these do not worry about the safety of their animals or the public; the money they bring in doesn’t help the animals. Many times, big cats are bred to produce enough cubs for the cub-petting industry until they die, only for those cubs to die from health complications, be transitioned into their breeding program, or be sold as a pet or into the trophy hunting industry. Places like these are NOT Ethical Tourism Destinations since it only has a negative impact on the animals’ lives.

Before planning a trip to any sanctuary, zoo, or rescue facility, do some research. Make sure that you are traveling with a purpose and search for Ethical Tourism Destinations when you are planning your next vacation.

International Volunteer Groups

Ethical Travel Awareness

August 13, 2018

International advocacy and awareness for the exotic pet trade is extremely important to bridge the gap between countries and solve global problems with exploitation of wildlife. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has paired up with an international ecotourism company, Animal Encounters Wildlife Tours, to create a volunteer program for all students, providing the opportunity to learn about the plight of exotic big cats in the United States.

Traveling all the way from Singapore to Arkansas, our volunteer group consists of the lead organizer Nicole and colleague Dee, both very passionate about the ethical treatment of animals and environmental tourism. Nicole and Hannah, TCWR’s Wildlife Interpreter, had met previously during an animal-centric internship in 2014, in South Africa. Their friendship grew based off of environmental advocacy and a passion for being a voice for wildlife around the world.

The dedicated volunteers spent their stay in Bam Bam’s Bungalow, for a full-on Turpentine Creek experience full of lion carols. Their days consisted of learning about the plight of exotic pets throughout the United States, and in-depth discussions about the connection between issues within Asia and the U.S. They joined tours, helped to educate the public during World Lion Day about lion conservation and life history, and volunteered with the animal care team building bear habitats and prepping animal diets.

The ability to create international awareness in invaluable to TCWR’s mission to fight the exotic pet trade and save big cats and exotic animals from the pet trade. By hosting international students and volunteers, TCWR is able to create many more voices for big cats in need. The first volunteer group has brought many important ideas for the education department and improving our volunteer program. They will be writing a blog of their experience, and what they both have learned and valued during their time here. TCWR is excited to continue to work with international volunteers and make a difference for students and animals throughout the world.

You don’t have to be from another country to volunteer and help out the animals at Turpentine Creek, you can sign up to volunteer now on our Volunteer page!

 

Keeper Week 2018

Team Work #IAmAKeeper

July 16, 2018

July 15-21 is the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) National Zoo Keeper Week. As a member of the AAZK, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is excited to be celebrating the week with our fellow animal keepers around the country! Our team spends the year dedicating themselves to making sure all the animals that call the Refuge home receives the best care possible.

This year’s theme for National Zoo Keeper Week is teamwork. Providing quality care for nearly 100 animals takes a lot of people doing various tasks. Our animal care team provides direct support to the animals by feeding, cleaning, creating enrichment, building habitats, and more. Our maintenance team keeps vehicles running, helps build habitats, fixes plumbing issues, and does general upkeep of the Refuge. Our office team fundraises, communicates information to the public and our supporters, and maintains memberships/adoptions/sponsorships. The lodging team offers a unique experience to our overnight visitors, creating a closer connection with supporters. Our gift shop team is the first and last people visitors see; they provide quality customer service, telling guests about our the Refuge and our mission. Finally, our new education department helps to spread the word about our mission and educate future generations about the plight of big cats in captivity. It takes every person on our team to keep the Refuge running smoothly. Get to know our dedicated team members by visiting our Meet our team page. 

As a way to show appreciation to the team for all their hard work, we have planned a week-long celebration for Keeper Week! Through donations from local businesses, board members, and a supporter, we have planned fun activities for the team each day of Keeper Week.

  • Sunday – Lunch donated by Subway in Eureka Springs, AR.
  • Monday – Breakfast Cooked by Victor Smith (TCWR Maintenance team head and owner of Catered Creations)
  • Tuesday – Lunch of Hamburgers, and Hotdogs by Harts in Eureka Springs & Veggie Burgers by Eureka Market
  • Wednesday – Breakfast by Dunkin Donuts in Rogers, AR
  • Thursday – Pizza – donated by CiCis Pizza in Fayetteville, AR
  • Friday – Ice cream social & party – Donated by a supporter
  • Saturday – Cake by Cravings by Rochelle in Eureka Springs, AR

Keeper Week isn’t just about celebrating the hard work of our team. It is about showing appreciation and improving morale. The animals might not be able to verbally thank everyone for what they do, but we want to thank all TCWR team members (both past and present) for dedicating their lives to the mission. It is only with their help that we can continue to rescue and provide lifetime homes for so many animals. Your donations help us provide the best quality care for the animals that call the Refuge home, donate now and help us, help them.

Territorial Relocation

Moving Poncho

July 2, 2018

This past weekend, we made the decision to separate Poncho and Montana, two of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge’s largest tiger residents. Poncho and Montana came to Turpentine together in 2016, during the Colorado Project. These beautiful boys are 8-year-old brothers that tip the scales at nearly 600 lbs each. The brothers have had their issues in the past but recently they have escalated to the point that we knew they could no longer live together.

Since Montana appeared to be the more dominant of the duo, it was decided to relocate Poncho to another habitat. We took a chance and put him next to Colby, one of our more relaxed tigers. The pair hit it off immediately, chuffing at each other and rubbing against the fence between them. Both Poncho and Colby seem to enjoy the company. They will always have a fence between them but they can spend their days chuffing and chatting. Montana also seems to be really enjoying having the habitat all to himself. He has spent his days marking everything as his and sleeping in the sunshine.

The separation of these two males is not a big surprise to the team. Wild tigers, especially males, are solo animals and very territorial. It is due to these territorial instincts that we do not introduce tigers that were not living together when they were rescued. Montana and Poncho have lived together all their lives, but as they’ve aged their instinct to claim their own territory has become stronger. We had tried to curb some of these instincts by neutering both boys but it was only a temporary fix.

Now that the pair has been separated they both appear to be happier. The boys will spend the rest of their lives living in separate habitats, but as tigers, the single life seems to be the purrfect fit for them.

Next time you visit, make sure to take a tour so you can see both boys enjoying their habitats. Montana is still located beside the office and lodging suites while Poncho and his friend Colby are on the back side of the tour loop.

History of the Exotic Pet Trade

How did the Crisis Begin

June 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting the Cat in EduCATion

TCWR’s Online Fundraiser

June 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

Artwork Jewelry Gift Certificates to Local Businesses And More!

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

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

Keeping Big Cats as Pets

Why is that a problem?

June 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

The Big Cat Public Safety Act

Making Progress in Congress

June 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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