You Made 2019 Giving Tuesday Great

Your Support Makes A Difference

December 4, 2019

You showed up Tuesday, December 3, to #GiveFocus and #GiveFuture during Giving Tuesday, donating over $38,000 to get us through the end of the year and laying a solid foundation for our 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future. 

Our unofficial total is $38,203, at the time of this blog post, but we are still waiting on numbers from Facebook and other sources. We feel confident that you allowed us to hit our $40,000 goal! We hope everyone who participated in this international day of giving had as wonderful of a time as we did. 

For Animal Curator, Emily McCormack and Communications Director, Lisa Brinker, the day began early with some fantastic news coverage by KNWA Northwest Arkansas News! They began with a 5 AM segment discussing our Giving Tuesday activities and allowing our animal residents to show-off for the cameras. KNWA News spent the rest of the day promoting us on their homepage! We are grateful they chose to #GiveFocus to the issues big cats everywhere are facing and what Turpentine Creek and all of our wonderful supporters are doing to make a positive change! 

You gave us a strong start, pouring donations in through Facebook at 8 AM EST! Some of you were up as early as 3 A.M. attempting to help us earn Facebook’s dollar for dollar match. Over $4,000 was raised during that time frame, which means that there is a chance that we will have an extra $4,000 to add to our total if we earned the match (Facebook says they will notify matching recipients in early January)! The money donated through Facebook quickly pushed us past our $3,000 mini goal to replenish our veterinary supplies and purchase specialty medical tools for emergency surgeries. These donations were made in honor of Ringo tiger, who passed away from complications following an intensive surgery earlier in the month. Just as you stood up to #RallyForRingo during his illness, you came through on Giving Tuesday to help his legacy live on in the other animals we will be able to help with the surgical instruments purchased. 

Once $5,000 was raised, we gave away a Family Fun Pack, which included four standard admission tickets, a TCWR calendar and an issue of the “Big Cat Chronicles” quarterly newsletter, plus a $10 Big Cat Bucks reloadable gift card. It wasn’t long after that when we hit our $10,000 mini goal and were able to draw a random winner for a photo and magnet of a TCWR animal resident of their choice! We had raised $15,000 before 1 P.M. and gave away an exclusive Coffee with the Curator Tour. In order to enter the giveaway, we asked supporters to share one thing they learned from TCWR, either by visiting or following along on social media. Here are some of the answers: 

  • “How bad declawing is for all cats…..large and small.” -Nikki S.
  • “I’ve learned that there is a huge problem in our country of people having large cats and keeping them in horrible conditions…” -Wendy P.
  • “The sad truth about cub petting and the related breeding behind it…” – Tracy G.
  • “My 8-year-old boy Benjamin even though we are at a distance admiring the tigers [learned] when they turn around and put their rear ends up to the fence don’t stand in amusement, run. Benjamin got sprayed. Even with that happening, he continues to love the tigers and someday wants to help the rescues.” – David R. 

After that, donations slowed down for a while, but we randomly drew the name for paw painting winners when we raised $20,000 and again at $25,000! The two paintings were created by Bobby the bobcat and Tigger the Golden Tabby Tiger. Both were special for different reasons. Bobby is a blind bobcat, and this was the first paw painting he ever attempted! He created a beautiful purple piece complete with itty bitty bobcat paw prints. Tigger is a newer animal resident and has done a paw painting before, but he’s a favorite of many! His multi-colored work of art was complete with dirt smudges and claw marks. We did a live drawing during 4 PM Behavioral Training, where viewers were treated to Tanya and Kizmin munching on meat treats before the winners were announced. 

The next mini-goal was $30,000, but the $35,000 was perhaps the most coveted because we were giving away a prize we never had before. Many of you are familiar with Emily McCormack, who has been with our organization for over 20 years and currently serves as our Animal Curator. She offered to do a personal video chat with the winner and their favorite TCWR animal resident! 

For the video chat giveaway, we asked people to enter by commenting on one thing they hoped to see in the future for big cats. A few of the answers were: 

  • “ I hope that regulations will change that will prevent private ownership and that will improve living conditions for them across the country/world!” -Laura E.
  • “ I hope all animals in captivity can find grass under their feet and warm, dry dens in accredited sanctuaries like Turpentine Creek.” -Laura R.
  • “Exotic animal trade will be a thing of the past and all existing animals will be in Wildlife refuge like Turpentine Creek” -Karen V.
  • “I really hope cub petting comes to an end…” – Elizabeth K.
  • “I hope that the bill before Congress passes so exotic and wild animals are protected. I hope circuses completely stop using all animals. I hope trophy hunting becomes illegal. I hope palm forests become protected. ‘A million dreams of the world we’re gonna make.’” – Heather K.

Together, we can make these wishes come true for the sake of exotic animals everywhere. Your donations will allow us to not only serve the animals who currently call the Refuge home, but to #GiveFocus to big cats through advocacy and education and #GiveFuture to others still trapped in the Big Cat Trade. Thank you for dreaming big dreams with us and stepping up to make those dreams a reality for those who are affected most by them: the animals.

It takes our entire team to make Giving Tuesday a success from our Animal Care and Education interns and staff making enrichment to celebrate donation milestones, our Communications team creating posts and live videos to engage our supporters, to our gift shop staff informing the visitors about Giving Tuesday, it is an entire team effort and we appreciate everyone for their efforts!

As a reminder, our largest prize to show our appreciation for our Giving Tuesday support is a 2-night getaway to Eureka Springs that includes a bundle of activities, such as 2 weeknights at the Refuge. If we find out we have hit our $40,000, we will be giving it away, so make sure to follow our social media for updates! We also did several cat-tastic live videos on December 3, so feel free to scroll through our Facebook to catch up on them if you missed out. 

1…2…3…Paws in! Go team! Our 2020 vision looks bright!

Happy Thanksgiving

From Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

November 28, 2019

Today is a day of reflection and celebration here at the Refuge. Today, we look back to all the wonderful things that our supporters have helped us accomplish since opening in 1992. We wanted to say a BIG roaring THANK YOU to both our old supporters, who have helped us create such a wonderful environment for our big cats to and bear to call home, and our brand new supporters who are eager to help us create a better future for big cats across the nation. Without your help, we couldn’t have built 60 large natural habitats, rescued hundreds of animals, or built our Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital. Without your continued support, we couldn’t have expanded our education program, started an advocacy program, or touched the lives of THOUSANDS of visitors every year! We are grateful for YOUR help in changing the world for big cats.

We are also grateful to all the people who cannot donate money, but donate time, resources, or just spend a few moments to help us spread the word and educate others about the plight of big cats; your help is crucial to ending the Big Cat Trade in the US. You are making a difference every time you talk to someone about Turpentine Creek and what you’ve learned through us.

And finally, we are grateful to all our team members and interns, both past and present. They work daily to ensure that the animals that call our Refuge home have everything they need to thrive here. Every team member is vital to our mission: animal care, office, education, lodging, maintenance, gift shop, and everyone in between. It takes all of us to make sure that the Refuge is running properly, the animals are cared for, and that we have the funds to care for these animals.

As you spend today with your friends and family celebrating this day of thanks please keep in mind that it is only through your generous donations that we are able to provide such amazing lives for the animals in our care. Please keep us in mind during Giving Tuesday (THIS Tuesday on December 3rd). On that day of international giving, we are asking our supporters to rally behind us and raise $40,000 to provide the best lives possible for our animal residents.

Mark your calendars and join us all day on our social media channels as we fundraise. We will be offering milestone prize giveaways (at $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $25,000, $30,000, $35,000 & $40,000) to celebrate your contributions to our cause. It will be a fun and eventful day where we can all gather together and celebrate the amazing accomplishments that you have helped us make.

Every little bit helps! $5, $10, $100, or more! If you are an early riser, you can even try to double your donation by donating through Facebook at 8am EST (7am CST, 6am MST, 5am PST). Facebook will be offering up a $7m matching donation while it lasts. Last year it went in SECONDS, so you have to be ready to donate through Facebook at exactly 8 am EST December 3rd to possibly qualify.

Please join us on Facebook, even if you cannot donate on Giving Tuesday. Liking, sharing, or commenting on our social media posts will help us reach a larger audience as well as give you the chance to win one of the amazing giveaways that we will be offering that day. We hope to see you there!

Click Here To Donate Early For Giving Tuesday

Emergency Surgery

Ringo Faces Life-Threatening Blockage

November 19, 2019

We are less than two weeks away from Giving Tuesday! On December 3, 2019, we are asking you to #GiveFocus and #GiveFuture to big cats by helping us reach our $40,000 goal. We will spend the day highlighting what your support can do while celebrating YOU with fun giveaways.

The first portion of our $40,000 goal has been allocated to restocking our veterinary supplies after Ringo, a 16-year-old tiger, underwent emergency surgery to remove a would-be fatal blockage from his intestines. Not only did we quickly go through our stock of supplies during the complicated 6-hour surgery, but we realized we needed a few pieces of equipment that would have made the operation much smoother. The first $3,000 donated on Giving Tuesday will #GiveFuture to Ringo and other animal residents facing emergency situations #RallyforRingo.

This past weekend, animal care team members noticed that Ringo was acting strangely. On Monday, the team and staff Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweely, sedated Ringo to x-ray his abdomen. They saw a strange shadow in the region of his stomach, at this point they knew Ringo would need surgery immediately. Severe blockages can quickly lead to issues that can result in an animal’s death. Dr. Kellyn and the team worked quickly.

During the six-hour surgery, we used up a large portion of our medical supplies, completely exhausting many medications, sutures, fluids, disposable medical equipment, and other various supplies. We even had to get some additional medications and equipment from local veterinarians.  Luckily, Dr. Kellyn was able to remove the blockage, although this required a 20-inch incision which will take Ringo a while to recover from. It is only because of YOUR dedication and support that we were able to perform this life-saving surgery on site! Your previous support to help us build our Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital and past donations to purchase vital medical equipment over the years made this surgery possible! With your help, we will use the first $3,000 of our Giving Tuesday fundraiser to replenish our supplies and even buy a few pieces of medical equipment that we discovered during the surgery could greatly assist us if this situation were to arise again.

The rest of our goal will be used to lay the foundation for our 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future. We plan for 2020 to be the hallmark year that serves as the catalyst for ending the Big Cat Trade in our lifetimes. That means we will be upping our education and advocacy game, taking our standards of care to the next level, and preparing for a future where all big cats have found sanctuary. From the small steps of controlling the futures of animals who have found safety and peace at the Refuge to the bigger dreams of touching the lives of those who have yet to be rescued, we are going to focus on the future of all big cats!

One of the best ways to help is by holding off on donating until 8 AM EST and making your donation through Facebook, if possible. Facebook will be matching dollar for dollar all donations made at 8 AM on the dot for up to $100,000 per nonprofit. We missed out on this opportunity last year because the money was GONE very quickly, within SECONDS, but this year, we hope to rally our supporters ahead of time to set their alarms and make their donations at 8 AM EST Tuesday, December 3, 2019 (not a moment before or after).  This is a pawesome opportunity for everyone! Thanks to Facebook, your $1 donation becomes $2, your $20 becomes $40, and so forth! Please give directly at this link on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at 8 AM EST so we can qualify for the match. (Did we mention it needs to be right at 8 AM EST on Tuesday, December 3, 2019?)

Giving days, such as Giving Tuesday, involve so much asking and you wonderful supporters cheering us on as we strive to reach our goal, that we do our best to show our gratitude to you! That’s why we are giving away the following items as we reach our Giving Tuesday milestones:

Once we raise $5,000, we will give away a Family Fun Pack consisting of four general admission tickets, at TCWR calendar, sticker, and newsletter plus a reloadable Big Cat Bucks Gift Card.

At the $10,000, one lucky winner will earn a photo of their favorite animal resident plus a magnet!

When $15,000 is raised, someone will have the opportunity to be taken behind-the-scenes with an exclusive Coffee with the Curator tour!

There will be lots of celebration at the halfway point of $20,000 when we give away a paw painting plus a DVD of the animals creating it! We will also give away a second paw painting at $25,000.

At $30,000, one lucky person will get a free Big Cat Call-Out! This means we will create enrichment with a custom message and give it to an animal resident and film it. You and the receiver of this gift also get complimentary access to the Refuge to see the call-out in real-time. This makes a wonderful gift and has been used to send birthday wishes, holiday greetings, even proposals!

We’ll only be $5,000 away from our goal when we raise $35,000, so you certainly deserve a special reward! One lucky winner can have a purrsonal Facetime/video chat with Emily McCormack and  their favorite TCWR animal resident.

The biggest prize of all will be given away once we hit our goal of $40,000! We will give away a Two-Day Weekday Get-Away for two to Eureka Springs! You will get complimentary lodging at the Refuge for two weeknights, a couples massage at New Moon Spa, an escape room package for 2 at Escape Room 13, dinner for 2 at Nyx, and a $25 gift certificate for Mid Street Café.

For more information about Giving Tuesday on December 3, 2019, please visit

Serval Survivor

TCWR’s Newest Rescue – Hunter Update

November 12, 2019

Turpentine Creek’s newest resident Hunter, a five-year-old male serval, is settling into his new home here at the Refuge. This lucky exotic cat escaped and survived in the wild not once, but twice, despite being declawed. In 2016, Hunter and a female serval escaped from their owner’s home in New Mexico, only Hunter survived that adventure. Since owning servals is illegal in New Mexico his owner was told to either relocate or give Hunter up, his owner told authorities that he would move.

This year, a serval was captured yet again in New Mexico and through microchip identification they found out that Hunter had never left the state and had went on another survival adventure. His owner claims that he escaped on moving day in 2016. Despite the alleged 3 years in the wild, Hunter was in relatively good shape upon rescue.

After his capture, Hunter spent a few weeks at the Albuquerque BioPark (ABQ) before being transported to his forever home with us. For the first few weeks, he was in quarantine in our Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital, where our staff Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweely, and animal care team members could keep a close eye on him. During this time, we also had to move some of our animals around to make room for him. Servals are native to Africa and require heated spaces since Arkansas winters can be harsh.

Rescuing Hunter gave us the opportunity to move some of our senior small animal residents, Sadie and Dillian, to Rescue Ridge, where they could ‘retire’ to a life out of the public eye. Tony and Prince were then moved to their old habitat so that they could enjoy having a fellow bobcat as a neighbor. Elvis is very curious about the two young bobcats that are now sharing a habitat wall with him.

Hunter is now enjoying having a whole habitat to himself with a large heated building he can explore. Servals do well in groups or alone and since the other serval habitat already has six cats, five of which are male, it was decided that Hunter would be happier having his own space.

So far, Hunter is enjoying his new home. He spends his days curled up under his rock shelter, climbing benches, and hissing at anyone who he thinks is too close. He hasn’t grown to trust the team… unless food is involved, then he is very willing to come close, nab his snack, and hiss his displeasure. We know that with time, patience, and care, Hunter will learn to trust at least some of the team members and fully settle into life at Turpentine Creek.

Your donations, support, advocacy, and social sharing are what allow us to continue rescuing animals in need. We want to thank you for your dedication and encourage you to help this year during our 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future. Without your help, we cannot make a difference in the lives of big cats across the US.

Please take a moment to decide how you can help.

  • Can you dedicate 5 minutes a week to talking to a stranger about the plight of big cats in captivity?
  • Can you make a promise to share at least 3 posts from Turpentine Creek’s social media accounts each week to help spread the word?
  • Can you start a Facebook fundraiser on your birthday and encourage your friends and family to donate?
  • Can you reach out to your representatives and ask them to support stricter laws on private ownership?
  • Can you crochet blankets and sell them with a portion of the proceeds coming to Turpentine Creek?
  • Can you paint a picture and donate part of those proceeds to the animals?
  • Can you challenge your friends to learn more about the exotic pet trade and open discussions on why it is a bad thing?
  • Can you make a promise to use less palm oil products (or only certified sustainable palm oil)?
  • Can you give up 1 cup of coffee a week to donate that $5 to the Refuge? (That totals $260 over a year!!!)
  • Can you create a poster about the Big Cat Public Safety Act and hang it at your local grocery store?
  • Can you sign up for Amazon Smile and register TCWR as your chosen nonprofit?

There are so many ways to help and we are asking you to take the first step towards a better future for big cats in 2020. Your pledge to join our 2020 Vision will allow us to give animals, like Hunter, a forever home. Get started on our 2020 Vision early on December 3, 2019 for #GivingTuesday and help us, help them.

The Retired Life

Dillian and Sadie Bobcat Move To Rescue Ridge

November 6, 2019

Senior bobcats, Dillian and Sadie, are now enjoying their “retirement!” These beautiful bobcats will be spending their days relaxing in their new, spacious, habitat in the peace of Rescue Ridge. A warm den, lower benches, and of course, new sights, scents, and smells greeted the pair on Tuesday after they were relocated from our Discovery Area to the Rescue Ridge space.

Sadie, who turned eighteen this past May, was the first to go out and explore. Dillian, on the other hand, was a bit stubborn and had to be sedated for the move. We used the opportunity to give the fifteen-year-old bobcat a full exam. Bloodwork showed that Dillian was a little anemic and displayed early signs of kidney disease, but our veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweely, is confident that he is in overall good shape and will be able to enjoy his new home at Rescue Ridge for many years to come.

Dillian enjoying his new habitat at Rescue Ridge

Dillian enjoying his new habitat at Rescue Ridge.

Although Rescue Ridge started out as an extra space for rescues, it has since turned into a retirement area for our older animals. The flatter ground makes it easier for aging animals with achy joints to stroll though their habitats and is more removed from the hustle and bustle up top.

Dillian and Sadie were moved mostly to give them some peace and make room for new animal residents, Hunter the African Serval and bobcats Tony, and Prince. These felines are younger and in need of a change of space.

Because Hunter is an African Serval, he requires a heated building. Our new serval habitat is already full, with six small cats living there, so our only other option was the old serval habitat, which Tony and Prince were occupying.

Tony is all smiles in his new habitat.

Tony is all smiles in his new habitat.

It was decided to move Tony and Prince to Dillian and Sadie’s habitat. As we mentioned, this works out well because Sadie and Dillian’s ages make them perfect residents for life at Rescue Ridge.

With so many animals who have so many varying needs, we are consistently evaluating everything from food to habitats to ensure we are giving them the best care they require day in and day out. We know our visitors miss seeing the animals that are moved to Rescue Ridge, but we are grateful for their understanding of our obligation to make decisions with our animal residents’ wellbeing at the forefront of our minds. In order to limit foot-traffic at Rescue Ridge but still give visitors the chance to visit their favorite older animal residents, we do offer exclusive tours that take you there and behind-the-scenes to learn even more about Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and our work. Visit our website for more information about our exclusive tours and to book one today!

Giving Tuesday 2019

Are You With Us?

October 29, 2019

Today, the typical life of a tiger in the U.S. looks like…

  • A cramped cage.
  • A filthy floor.
  • Green water.
  • Uncertainty of when their next meal will be.
  • Breeding and breeding and breeding then birthing babies only to have them immediately taken away.
  • A painful, treatable infection- but no treatment is given so death is slow and suffering.
  • Shivering as the trainer with a whip commands jumping through a ring of fire…do you jump or be whipped? Which is worse?
  • Being viewed as a disposable, replaceable money-making tool instead of being respected as a wild animal, a sentient being.

Tomorrow could look different, but only if you are willing to help.

In 2020, we will be focusing on the things each one of us can do to change the future for big cats. If each one of you took an action, no matter how small, we could make a radical difference for what the next year- even the next 10 years – looks like for both our animal residents and those who still need to be rescued. We want 2020 to be the catalyst for major change. Decades from now, we want to look back and remember it as the year that got us where we are.

Our 2020 vision is a bold one, and we are using Giving Tuesday 2019 as our kickoff by setting an equally bold fundraising goal. It’s our most ambitious Giving Tuesday yet, but we know you will make it a success! Please join us Tuesday, December 3, to #GiveFocus and #GiveFuture as you give your support to our $40,000 Giving Tuesday goal that will launch us into our 2020 Campaign- 2020 Vision: Your Focus. Their Future.

You are always so quick to praise us and the work that we do. We are grateful, but you are the real heroes. Without you, where would we be? Likely, still in the tiny space some of you may remember from decades ago, with animals in a better place than they were before their rescue but still not in the best environment they could be in. Without you, “ethical tourism,” and “ethical entertainment” would be phrases unheard of and the conversation surrounding how we treat wildlife in the U.S. would be nonexistent. You are a part of our team and dare we say, the most crucial part.

Participating in Giving Tuesday means taking a tangible action to craft the future big cats deserve. Your support will lay a solid foundation for going into the New Year secure in our ability to care for our animal residents and brazen enough to ask “What more can we do?” We are ready to take our standards of care, our education, our advocacy to the next level! We are ready to think bigger and act bigger! Change CAN happen within our lifetime for big cats- are you with us?

Click hear to learn more about Giving Tuesday, December 3, and all the ways (including non-monetary) you can get involved. Stay tuned for information on the give-aways, special videos, and other celebrations we will be having that day!

As the first small action you take, please click here and mark “going” on our Giving Tuesday event on Facebook. This will help you stay up-to-date and spread the word to others about our campaign.

Protecting Black Cats Big And Small

Persecution and Superstition Against Black Cats Big And Small

October 23, 2019

Big cats are dangerous animals and, in the wild, they can be misconstrued and are often killed for following their natural instincts. Even big cats born and bred in captivity still have their natural instincts. Spyke, for example, might have been raised at TCWR after his mother rejected him, but he still likes to ‘hunt’ team members and visitors through the fence; He will stalk and pounce at anything that catches his attention. He also loves to climb, a natural instinct for leopards, who tend to drag their prey into trees to protect it from scavengers and other predators. Acting on these wild instincts, Spyke can often be found demolishing pumpkins, paper bags, and any other enrichment item you place in his habitat.

In the wild, leopards, like Spyke, face major problems such as habitat loss and reduction of prey numbers. Leopards located near livestock farms will often find it much more convenient to make a meal out of the livestock than to hunt their natural prey; This causes conflict with the farmers and local towns and will often lead to the killing of the leopards. Habitat loss and trophy hunting also contribute to the decline in leopard populations.

These beautiful animals are also used symbolically. In some South African cultures, leopards are killed for their pelts to be worn as a sign of pride, beauty, and wealth. The myth that you can gain power from the pelt of an animal you kill is contributing to the population decline. Fortunately, many of these tribes are beginning to use faux fur pelts in the place of real pelts for these ceremonial purposes.

Around this time of year, black cats can be quite popular. They can be found in almost all Halloween movies, shows, and decorations. So yes, cats, even large ones like leopards, can have certain mythical or spiritual connections. These affiliations oftentimes lead to unfortunate circumstances, just like with leopards and the desire for their pelts.

Much like larger wild relatives, black domestic cats are unfairly judged, especially around Halloween. Unfortunately, some people see these cute little felines as bad luck or even as a sign of evil. Sometimes, these unfounded superstitions can lead to dangerous situations for our own little “house panthers” and “lap lions.”

During the month of October, many animal shelters across the country do not allow the adoption of black cats; Some places will not adopt out cats at all. Some shelters site the risk of torturing or killing black cats for cult rituals, or just acts of spite, as reason for the ban on adoption. People often only adopt black cats as props for Halloween, but then have no use for them after the festivities have ended. Because of this, many shelters have also seen a higher return or abandonment rate of black cats after Halloween.

Creating awareness and educating the public about the plight of cats, big and small, is vital to their futures. To learn more about leopards, visit our Leopard Species Page. You can also come to visit us on the evening of October 25th for our annual Howloween Spooktacular, to see that black cats, or black leopards like Spyke, aren’t always bad luck!

A Spooktacular Event

You’re Invited For Our Annual Howl-O-Ween Event!

October 15, 2019

Our annual Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular has been a hit the past 24 years, and we’re excited to bring our family-friendly celebration back Friday, October 25, from 7 PM – 9 PM. You read that right, we are moving our Howl-O-Ween Spooktacular event to Friday this year! We keep things age-friendly meaning the spookiest section of the Refuge is clearly marked and curtained off for the little ones who might get too frightened.

Put on your favorite costume and see if you have the ghostly grit to win one of our costume contests or compete against other sneaky spooks in a variety of games! Bob along like candied apples in our bounce house and curb your zombie-like hunger with goodies from our concession stand (brains not served). You can also enjoy mystical entertainment by magician Carlos David Magic! Not to mention, the most exciting part:

This is your one chance of the year to see our big cats in a whole new light: after dark!

We will be giving guided hayride tours to all attendees. Most of our animal residents are highly active at night. The Refuge decorations and bustling of costume-clad princesses and werewolves provide engaging enrichment that gets them excited!

See if you can spot the stripes of our tiger residents in the moonlight! Tigers are literally built for hunting after the sun goes down. When the moon hits their stripes, their bodies appear “broken up,” making it difficult for their prey to differentiate between predator and shadows! Their eyes contain more rods than cones; rods are used to identify shapes while cones process color. A higher rod-count allows them to detect movement in their nighttime environment when seeing in clear color would not be useful.

Lions sometimes hunt at night but are much more opportunistic with their schedules. Typically, hunting after dusk is beneficial to this breed of felines because their eyesight and stealth is more efficient than their prey’s. It is also much cooler, which benefits lions in two ways. First, they aren’t having to exert themselves as they would under the baking Savannah sun. Second, prey like antelope stores body heat then releases it at night, which means their muscles are weaker at that time, making them an easy meal for a hungry lion!

You’ve likely observed our leopard residents idly perching high upon the natural features placed throughout their habitat during your daytime visit. This is how they spend their days in the wild but at night is when they come out to find food! Like lions, they are often opportunistic with their hunts, but because they solitarily search for prey in the hot sun without a powerful band of teammates to help out, nighttime is their best time. They prefer ambushing predators from the shadows of trees and are hesitant to waste energy on a long chase if their sneak attack fails.

Our African Serval residents are actually considered “crepuscular,” which means they are more active during twilight, but will occasionally emerge at night. Our bear residents may be snoozing in their dens during the Spooktacular, as this species commonly checks their bear-necessities off their to-do lists from dawn until dusk, though in certain areas with high human populations, some have adapted a nocturnal lifestyle to avoid human contact. In the wild, cougars take a similar approach by going out during dawn, dusk, and at night to stay away from people. Bobcats are naturally nocturnal. This habit allows them to remain elusive, as well.

We hope you can join us Friday, October 25, and experience Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge like you never have before!

The Price Of Life

Is a Bobcat Worth More Alive or Dead?

October 8, 2019

Have you ever wondered how valuable a bobcat is? We know that they are very important to the environments that they live in for a variety of reasons, one of which being prey population management. But, sometimes bobcat furs are sold in order to make money. In the United States, a single pelt can be sold for an average of $416.

You might think that that is a lot of money. However, in Madison, Wyoming, a bobcat, known as the Madison River bobcat, makes much more than that; He does this by just being alive. Did you know that tourists make a special trip to Madison Wyoming every year? This special trip is made in order to witness and photograph this particular bobcat that is located on the Madison River. Bobcats are very aloof, and therefore difficult to see in the wild. Even in National Parks, like Yellowstone, these small cats are rarely seen by the public. A fact that makes seeing one in the wild all the more special, and people flock to this area in order to see one of the most elusive wild cat species in North America.

The lead scientist for Panthera’s puma program compiled a list of ecotourism costs that were associated with this particular bobcat and the many people that go to see and document the cat in one year. By interviewing guides, photographers, and other tourists that visited the area, he determined that in one year, those people collectively spent $308,105 on guide services, equipment, hotel costs, and revenue earned from photo sales.

Given this information, the value of a bobcat decreases by nearly 1000 times by killing it. This study is incredibly valuable to proving that the bobcat is worth much more alive than dead. It might seem odd to associate a monetary value with a living creature. But, in a world that is constantly using economic value to make legal, ethical, and personal decisions, it is vital that our society is aware of these lesser-known values.

For more information about our elusive neighbor, the bobcat, please visit our Species Information Page, or come visit us at Turpentine Creek to see our bobcat residents, learn their stories, and see for yourself how valuable a bobcat’s life is!

The Rest Of The Story

What 20/20 Left Out Of Their Siegfried And Roy Special

October 1, 2019

This past Friday, 20/20’s premier show featured Siegfried and Roy, two names that are recognized worldwide for their magic show performances that included white tigers along with a menagerie of other exotic animals. Their show ran in one form or another for over 30 years, but ended when one of the magicians, Roy, was almost killed by one of their white tigers, Mantacore.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was interviewed by a 20/20 team about the mistreatment of these animals, why magic shows are detrimental to the health of the animals, and about white tiger inbreeding. Sadly, the interview with Turpentine Creek’s big cat experts, President Tanya Smith and Animal Curator Emily McCormack, was reduced to a short five-minute segment that focused solely on the inbreeding of white tigers.

“These are inbred animals that all come back to one animal: the first white tiger that was captive. Mohan was bred back to his daughter to try to produce this white tiger, so that is where the inbreeding came about,” explained Emily McCormack on the 20/20 episode.

Afterward, 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts claimed, “There have been no reports of abnormalities with Siegfried and Roy’s white tigers. In fact, they say they practice conscientious breeding to avoid mating tigers that are closely related, and they say they stopped breeding tigers back in 2015.”

Despite this argument, factual information dictates that all white tigers are related. Though Siegfried and Roy may not have been breeding brother and sister or mother and son, absolutely no white tiger breeding is truly “conscientious.” Also, there may have been no reported “abnormalities” with the magicians’ tigers, but all white tigers share the same faulty genetics and predisposition for a number of diseases and deformities.

Roberts then brought up Kenny, a white tiger rescued by TCWR nearly 2 decades ago, who became the “poster child” for the problems of inbreeding after a photo of him falsely claiming he had Down Syndrome went viral.

“One who is kind of famous, Kenny, that we rescued back in 2000, he was deformed in the face, McCormack recalled. “A lot of [white tigers] are very visibly cross-eyed.”

McCormack reminded everyone that when it comes to ensuring other white tigers don’t suffer as Kenny did, “education is key.”

The chance to provide true education, however, was short-lived. McCormack’s small segment was the only true argument against the behind-the-scenes life of Siegfried and Roy’s act featured on the two-hour season premiere, other than the occasional brief comment about how dangerous the show potentially was. There were multiple quick clips about how there was no barrier between the audience and the tigers, the potential danger to the audience and performers, and how there was never any “major” incident before the October 3, 2003 incident. But what qualifies as major? Would a lion taking a “chunk” out of Roy, who then required 33 stitches just from the swipe of a paw not be seen as major? Or one of the many other unnamed and so-called “minor” accidents that happened over the years? Rather than delving into the true dangers of the act, the segment shifted focus to people happily petting cute little cubs.

In an old interview used in the feature, former Mirage Hotel Owner, Steve Wynn, recalled the day before the attack, saying he had discussed the threat of the powerful tigers with Roy. Wynn told Roy the most miraculous thing the illusionist had done was make millions of people forget these animals are dangerous. This comment emphasized that many people are hypnotized by this illusion, believing it is safe to keep a tiger or other large feline as a pet. Sadly, when the trance fades to reality, the true risks are revealed.

Many issues that are currently being discussed in headlines were completely ignored by the creators of the ABC segment, which we feel was a missed opportunity for creating a more balanced report. For example, H.R. 1380 – The Big Cat Public Safety Act, a bill banning hands-on interaction by the public with animals like those used in Siegfried and Roy’s act and requiring barriers to protect audiences was recently voted on by the House of Representatives Oceans, Water, and Wildlife subcommittee to be presented to the floor. This bill will revolutionize the modern treatment of big cats in captivity, especially those used for profit, yet there was no mention of it in the piece.

Laws pertaining to declawing animals have also been a subject of recent debates and easily ties into magic shows since this method is often used to make the preforming animals “safer.” Another side of the story could have highlighted the dangers of obtaining a big cat and treating it like a pet.  Though many of these topics were very briefly touched on, it was not done so in a light that educated people on the detriments of such actions.

ABC’s entire episode of “Siegfried and Roy” painted an idealistic but unrealistic picture of living and working with deadly predators. It might have audiences believing the connection between the owner and the animal is “magical” and perfectly safe. The camera would often cut to the animals roaming freely around Siegfried and Roy’s home. Although it was good that these animals had so much space to live in, the problem is people tend to mimic what they see. When audiences see big cats living with humans, they think it is okay to have a tiger living with them, failing to realize their situation is far from the same. Most people cannot afford the proper space for the animals, they do not have the same security, or the same allowance for food and veterinary care. Unlike Siegfried and Roy, they might even have children or neighbors that are being put in danger daily due to their attempt to trap a tiger or lion in their home all because of the fantasy portrayed by the magicians’ lives.

Our organization was originally excited about the opportunity to bring big cat advocacy and education to a platform that would reach millions on a national scale. When Emily McCormack and Tanya Smith were interviewed, we were informed the second half of the 20/20 “Siegfried and Roy” special would show the other side of magic shows, focusing on why they are unhealthy for the animals forced to perform and the negative message they send to the public.

Sadly, the two-hour special seemed to be a very long promotion for Siegfried and Roy’s upcoming biography movie. It is our hope, however, that the brief moment we were given to share facts made an impact. Even if only one person came away with a new perspective on white tiger breeding, with a newfound drive to educate and advocate, the experience was a positive one.