Category Archives: Education

First Snow Of The Season:

A White Tiger Paradise

January 15, 2018

The residents at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge got a special treat this week, the first major snowfall this year. Big cats, especially tigers, absolutely love the snow, it is a new scent, texture, and mental enrichment item that only nature can provide for them. And they are more than prepared to enjoy it. Tigers get an extra thick coat and an extra layer of fat during the winter to keep them nice and warm even during the cool, wet snow season.

Our white and pure white tigers especially seem to enjoy the snow, since this is the only time during the year that they are truly camouflage and can try to sneak up on team members without them noticing (although we do notice them… we just act extra surprised during the snow storms).

White tigers do not often occur in the wild. The last documented wild white tiger was in the 1950’s, and since then all remaining captive white tigers have come from a very small family tree. Officially, all white tigers in American descend from one of two sources. The most well-known line is Mohan, a white tiger captured in the wild in 1951, who was bred with his daughter, Rewa, to produce white cubs. Another American bred white tiger line that may or may not have a relation to Mohani is the Kubla/Susie line which produced Tony and Tony’s cousins Bagheera & Frosty (Susie’s sister’s cub). Kubla’s parents were wild tigers who were brother and sister, and Susie’s parents are not known publicly, so there is no way to know if she is any relation to Mohan.

With only possibly two sources of white tiger blood in the U.S., that means all white tigers are extremely inbred. This inbreeding has lead to many genetic defects such as being cross-eyed, have shortened tendons of the forelegs (Clubfoot), kidney problems, higher rates of cancer, arched or crooked spines, twisted necks, snub/pug nose (like Kenny), cleft pallet, stunted growth, malformed jaws bones, deformed teeth, and many more birth defects. White tigers are extremely unhealthy and should never be bred.

Beyond the white and black color combination, white tigers can also produce ‘pure’ white tigers (white tigers with no or very faint stripes) and strawberry/golden tabby tigers. These color variants come from the white tiger line and are even more recessive than the white coloration.

Although Turpentine Creek is against breeding tigers, especially white tigers, and other big cats in captivity we are home to eleven white tigers, two pure white tigers, and one Golden Tabby tiger, all who were acquired from other facilities through rescues or rehoming efforts. We will not turn an animal away due to their coloration or health issues.

It is only with your help that we can continue to care for the many cats and bears that call our refuge home and fight for the protection of big cats in captivity. Click here to donate now and help us, help them. 


Declawing and Defanging

The Painful Lives of “Safe” Big Cats

September 5, 2017

An X-Ray of a declawed cougar’s paw. The joints in their toes fused into a curled position due to arthritis. They also developed a bone growth on their ‘wrist’ from shifting their weight and walking on their wrists instead of their toes.

No big cat is ever safe, even if they have been declawed and defanged. Declawing and defanging are two painful attempts at making a wild animal safe enough to be handled by humans, but nothing can make a dangerous wild animal safe enough to be a pet.

The declawing process removes the last bone at the knuckle on each toe. Cats walk with most of their weight on their toes when you remove the toe it forces them to shift their weight further back on bones and muscles not naturally made for this purpose.

In house cats, declawing increases the likelihood of poor behaviors like not using the litter box correctly, spraying, biting, aggression and later in life arthritis. Big cats have similar behavior problems, but they are garunteed to get arthritist since they are larger and put more weight on their feet.

Another painful risk with declawing is that if they don’t get every little bit of the bone, the claw will attempt to grow back, but not like a normal claw. These claw cunks are deformed and cannot exit the paw. This causes pain and discomfort for the animals. Over all it is a very painful life for any cat, big or small, that is declawed.

Thurston was part of a magic show. The magician declawed and defanged him so that he was ‘safer’ around the public. He will need dental work.

Defanging is another painful process done to many wild animals to try to make them ‘safer.’ Defanging is when the canine teeth are removed. Although big cats chew their food with their back teeth, they still need their front teeth to grip the meat so that they can chew it properly.

Defanging can be done one of two ways, either the teeth could be ground down, leaving the nerves exposed and pockets for rot to happen, or the canines can be pulled out. Most of the time defanging is done by a veterinarian, but in some cases, owners will attempt this process on their own. Teeth that were not removed decay faster making it ever harder for the animal to eat. Most defanged cats have to be put on boneless meat, and then extra calcium supplemented to make up for the lack of bones in their diet.

This was is the case with Vada, a black leopard, whose owner used pliers to remove his teeth so that he could continue to play with him. Vada came to TCWR in a lot of pain. He had to have multiple procedures to fix the damage, but he spent the remainder of his life living an uncomfortable life due to his owner’s desire to make him ‘safe.’

The USDA’s Animal Welfare Act addresses the issue of declawing and defanging big cats and non-human primates, but these procedures are not yet illegal. Until it is made illegal road side zoos, magicians, and pseudo-sanctuaries will continue to inhumanely declaw and defang big cats so that the public can interact with them.

A photo of Vada’s defanged mouth. Vada passed away in 2011.

“Declawing or the removal of the canine teeth (fangs) in wild or exotic carnivores or nonhuman primates are no longer considered to be appropriate veterinary care unless prescribed by the attending veterinarian for treatment of individual medical problems of the paws or teeth. These procedures are no longer deemed to be acceptable when performed solely for handling or husbandry purposes since they can cause considerable pain and discomfort to the animal and may result in chronic health problems. These procedures are no longer allowed under the Animal Welfare Act. This notice is consistent with the current position statement issued by the American Veterinary Medical Association.” – USDA Animal Welfare Act

In the past, declawing was seen as a standard practice, but as more research has been done, the animal care field has found out the poor consequences of these actions. Good rescue facilities are willing to adapt and learn about new standards of animal husbandry. Their goal is to do whatever is in the best interest of the animals in their care. They are willing to change policies and procedures for the betterment of the animals.

Over the 25 years that Turpentine Creek has been open, our policies and procedures have changed. We’ve learned better ways to build habitats, feed, and care for our animals. We’ve evolved and adapted as needed over the years. We do not declaw, defang, or allow hands-on interaction with our animals. For our declawed and defanged animals, we have them in a pain management program to help them live as normal lives as possible. We will continue to learn and grow as long as we are needed making sure what we do is in the best interest of the animals in our care.

Tiger Day

Can We Stop The Countdown?

July 24, 2017

International Tiger Day is this Saturday. Tiger Day, which is celebrated on July 29th every year, is a day set aside to help raise public awareness about the threats that are dwindling the world’s wild tiger population. These magnificent animals are on the brink of extinction and without action, they could be completely extinct in the wild by the time our children are grown.

Below is a timeline of the wild tiger population, where they were in the 1900’s to where they are today:

  • In the 1900’s, wild tiger populations were well over 100,000 but through poaching, habitat loss, trophy hunting, bone wine, “medicinal” use, and other various factors the population had been nearly decimated.
  • By the 1970’s, the population dropped to less than 4,000.
  • In 2010, populations hit an all time low at approximately 3,200 total left in the wild. Through conservation efforts in 2016, we witnessed a slight population increase up to 3,890.

Conservation efforts need to start in the wild. Captive breeding is only a small part of conservation and there are regulated captive breeding programs, such as the Species Survival Plan (SSP), that monitor breeding programs to ensure that the animals involved are of the same subspecies, are not inbred (a common issue with captively bred big cats in the exotic pet trade), and have no major genetic defects.

These efforts in captivity, however, are only secondary measures to guarantee that there will be a viable population of tigers who could be potentially introduced into the wild. But before we can even consider introducing these captive bred populations, we have to first stop the issues that have brought them to near extinction in the first place.

There are a few ways that you and your community can help end the decline of wild tiger populations:

  1. No Palm Oil – Palm oil comes from Sumatra, the destruction of the Palm forest is decreasing habitat for the Sumatran tiger along with other species like the Orangutan. The Cheyenne Zoo has created a phone app you can download to help you identify products that have Palm Oil in them. The app is called Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping.
  2. Speak Up – Let your state and Congressional Representatives know that this is an issue that you are passionate about. Poaching, hunting, and selling these beautiful animals is still a major concern. Remember, they work for you!
  3. Be a Responsible Tourist – Avoid places that breed cubs and pay-to-play schemes.
  4. Spread the Word – Don’t be quiet about your concern. Talk about the issue and help educate everyone about the plight of tigers in the wild and in captivity.