Category Archives: Education

Volunteer Experience Part 2

International Volunteering

October 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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!

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.

First Kids Day Camp

Introducing Kids To Conservation

June 4, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge will be kicking off the busy summer season with our first day camp on Wednesday, June 6th. We are looking forward to 3 days of fun programs and activities with the kids. Throughout the week, the kids will discover the world of wildlife and how they can be the voice for animals everywhere. We will work together to create enrichment for the animals that call the Refuge home, explore animal senses, go on a nature hike to journal what we see and hear, and so much more.

Our goal is to help immerse children into the world of wildlife in order to help them understand why exotic animals do not make good pets. Through our summer day camps; the kids will see the animals every day and learn how dangerous it is to have a tiger, lion, bear, etc. as a pet. They will have a better connection to the animals that call Turpentine Creek home and will discover how to help advocate for wildlife everywhere. If you know any children that would love to participate in any of our day camps, we would love for them to attend. We do still have spots available for our camps in July. We know we are going to have a blast helping the kids explore Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge during their time with us. Check out our Education Day Camp page to see the Day Camp Schedule and to reserve a spot for your cub today!

The Reality of Cub Petting

How it is Detrimental To Conservation Efforts

May 25, 2018

Exotic animal cubs are heavily overexploited and overbred due to the extreme desire to view their cuteness. There are no “behind the scene” episodes of where the animals come from, or what happens when they grow into powerful apex predators. If the public knew that “liking” and sharing social media videos, following baby animal posts, or actually visiting a place to play with cubs was actually harming them, would they still be so popular? This is the information that every big cat lover needs to know.

  • Cub petting and pay to play schemes are some of the most popular interactive tourist attractions in the United States where animals are exploited for profit.
  • Animal-loving patrons are fooled into thinking they are helping with conservation or feeding an abandoned cub, and tricked into supporting cruel practices.
  • Cubs are stripped away from their mothers at birth, malnourished, sleep deprived, and lack proper veterinary care.
  • They are starved in order for them to be hungry for the next picture.
  • Babies are only allowed to be held from 8-12 weeks old legally.
  • Mothers are constantly bred to keep up with this window, when in the wild they would only have cubs every 2-3 years.
  • Breeding generic tigers and other exotic animals in captivity does not help with their conservation, or save them from going extinct.
  • Breeding actually causes a surplus of adult dangerous exotic animals, who are euthanized once grown and unprofitable, or sold to roadside zoos and circuses to live a life full of exploitation and abuse.
  • Very few big cats are fortunate enough to be rescued at a true sanctuary.

Are a few minutes of play and a photo worth a lifetime of suffering for a big cat?

For big cat lovers, there is a safe and beneficial alternative to help victims of the exotic animal trade and cub petting industry. Visit true sanctuaries that do not buy, sell, breed, or trade animals and provide them with a forever home. It is much more satisfying to know that the admission fees are going to help protect the animals from further exploitation and neglect. To see the big cats running around in large grassy habitats and playing with enrichment toys, to have a life they deserve.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has rescued abused, abandoned, neglected, and unwanted big cats and other exotic animals for 25 years. Not only will TCWR continue to provide Refuge for these animals, but continue to strive to educate every visitor to become an animal advocate and fight against the problem. Make a difference by supporting true sanctuaries and not visiting pseudo-sanctuaries or contributing to pay to play schemes. Together we can make a difference! Thank you for your continued support and “Helping Us, Help Them!”.

For more detailed information on Cub Petting, please Click Here to visit our Educational Information Section: Cub Petting.

You can help put an end to Cub-Petting in the USA by helping us pass The Big Cat Public Safety Act H.R. 1818. Reach out to your state representatives today and tell them that they need to support this bill and stop the exploitation and abuse of big cats in the USA.

Blog Written By Education Intern Hannah Wherry

Endangered Species Day

Raising Awareness

May 18, 2018

The problem with endangered species is how they become endangered in the first place. There are many, but two main reasons animals are disappearing from the Earth: loss of habitat and loss of genetic variation. But why do endangered species matter to us? Extinction is a natural process, and history has shown “normal” rates to be between 1-2 species per year. Currently, the rate of extinction is estimated to be 1000-10,000 times this rate. This is due to human causes, and we are entering a new epoch in time: The Anthropocene: where our geological footprint will forever be engrained in the history and geological records of our planet.

Endangered species are defined as a group of organisms that are at risk of becoming extinct due to habitat loss, alteration of ecological roles, or too few remaining individuals to sustain breeding of the species. Habitat loss due to human activity, cutting down forests for agriculture, draining coastal marshlands, as well as pesticides and chemical alterations to our landscapes have destroyed both the habitat and food supply for life on Earth. Pollution, overexploitation, population growth, and commercialized farming are also culprits to the rapid endangerment of our wildlife.

We are all dependent on the health of the natural world to survive by its provisions such as clean air, water, and food. Many species today are in extreme danger of disappearing forever due to our choices. We must protect the fragile Earth by making better decisions about what we choose to consume. By purchasing sustainably made products and lessening our personal impacts on the environment, we can each individually make a difference.

List of Endangered Big Cats

Critically Endangered

  • West African Lion
  • South China Tiger
  • Sumatran Tiger Amur Leopard
  • Javan Leopard
  • South Arabian Leopard
  • Asiatic Cheetah

Endangered

  • Central Asian Leopard
  • North Persian Leopard
  • Persian Leopard
  • West Asian Leopard
  • Sri Lankan Leopard
  • Asiatic Lion
  • Snow Leopard
  • Tiger
  • Amur Tiger
  • Indochinese Tiger
  • Malayan Tiger
  • Bengal Tiger

Critically Endangered

  • Iberian Lynx
  • Iriomote Cat

Endangered

  • Fishing Cat
  • Flat-headed Cat
  • Scottish Wildcat

Summer Kids Day Camp

Inspiring The Next Generation of Keepers

April 23, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge would like to invite our younger supporters to join us this summer for a few fun-filled days at our first ever Summer Day Camps! We will be offering four summer day camps in the months of June and July. Two camps will be for kids between the ages of 6-8 and two camps will be for kids between the ages of 9-12.

Our day camp cubs will be participating in 3 days of educational fun at the refuge. They will get the chance to explore their wild side, learn about wildlife, participate in games, activities, crafts, and more! Kids can participate in both of their age group day camps because each day camp is different!

Cubs ages 6-8 years old can join us June 6-8 for our Exploring Your Wild Side Day Camp or July 11-13 for our Wildlife Adventure Day Camp. Cubs ages 9-12 can join us June 27-29 for our Wildlife Adventure Day Camp or July 25-27 for our Explore Your Wild Side Day Camp. Space is limited for all day camps. Only 12 campers can participate in each camp, so make sure you sign your cub up today while there is still space!

You can learn more about each of our day camps, how many spots are still available in our education section of the website or by clicking the link here. 

Our new educational department, headed by Beckie Moore our own Education Coordinator and Wildlife Interpreter, has been working hard to make our visitor experience more robust and educational. Day camps are just one of the many ways that the Education Department is working to bring more fun and educational activities to our supporters.

Sign your child up today, while there is still space available!