Category Archives: Education

Teachable Experiences

New Movie “Secret Life Of Pets 2” Includes A White Tiger

June 19, 2019

Blackfire and Peyton stalk their sibling RocklynAnimated movies are a fantastic way for children to connect real life morals and values in the form of cartoon characters. We all remember the most influential movies of our childhood, and the way watching them made us feel in that moment, 25 years into the future. For animal lovers, The Lion King was extremely impactful, and still is today. With the growing industry of childhood animation and storylines, it is important to not forget what messages those movies are sending the future of the natural world, our children.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a sequel, where the heroes in the film fight together to rescue a white tiger from an abusive life in a circus. The film is full of action, with the main character Max anxiously doing everything he can as a dog to protect his human baby, and his furry friends try to rescue Hu, the white tiger, from an abusive circus master. The moral of the story is that children can embrace the challenges of life, and overcome personal fears.

However, the ending winds up with Hu, the white tiger, living in a household as a pet. Although rescuing exotic animals from the circus industry is a wonderful way to teach children the negative aspects of animal entertainment, it encourages keeping wild animals as pets. As the exotic pet trade continues to wreak havoc on captive wildlife, we must use these opportunities to speak out to our children on why tigers should never be kept as a pet. Just as the real-life stories we see of tigers being kept in apartments in New York, or abandoned in a home in Texas.

White tiger Donner stalks the camera with a smile on his face.Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge relentlessly fights to advocate and create awareness on why tigers, lions, bears, and other exotic wildlife should never be kept as a pet. For 27 years, TCWR has been rescuing abused, neglected, and abandoned big cats from those who cannot provide them with the proper care. There are over 7,000 tigers kept as pets in the United States, when there are only 3,800 left in the wild.

Together we can stop the exotic pet trade by working together and teaching our children that tigers and other endangered species should be kept in the wild. Captive exotic animals should be in the care of professionals, should never be held or pet, and live their lives at facilities like Turpentine Creek, where they can live a life of freedom at a true sanctuary.

We encourage our supporters to use this opportunity to speak to the younger generation on how they can help, and to spread the message that predators are not meant to be pets. By having an open-ended conversation with the youth in your life, you can facilitate wildlife warriors for the future. Discuss why having a predator as a pet is never a good idea, and if that were a real-life tiger, what kind of care does it deserve? We can use these opportunities to teach our children that not everything in life (or a cartoon) is what we should believe is right.

Turpentine Creek is not discouraging our supporters from watching this movie, only encouraging them to use this movie as an opportunity to have a discussion with their children and other people.

Infectious Diseases

The Dangers of Human Contact with Big Cats

May 21, 2019People participating in cub petting. Two cougar cubs lay listlessly while humans of all ages play with them.

Big cats can potentially carry many diseases that can be transmitted by animals to humans through various forms of contact; these are known as Zoonotic diseases. Many businesses that allow hands-on interaction with cubs for photos or pay-to-play schemes will not inform the public that a cub is ill, even when it is sick with a zoonotic disease. This is done because the time that cubs can legally be handled is limited to a two-month period. When a cub can potentially make $5,000 – $10,000 a day, any downtime is very costly in the eyes of these businesses, and they’d rather not lose out on money, though patrons may contract these diseases.

Some of the more common zoonotic diseases that big cats can carry and transmit to humans are:

  1. Ringworm – a highly contagious skin infection caused by a fungus that can be transmitted through contact.
  2. Roundworms & Hookworms – intestinal parasitic worms. Roundworms, also known as ascarids, can be caught through accidentally ingesting infective worm eggs. Hookworms can be passed one of two ways, either through accidental ingestion of infective larvae or through larval migrans, which is where the infective worms penetrate and burrow through the skin. Once larvae are in the body, they can move about freely, infecting and damaging different organs including the gut, liver, and lungs.
  3. Giardia & Cryptosporidium – intestinal protozoans that cause malodorous diarrhea. Transmission is through accidental ingestion usually after contact with a fomite or infective water source. A fomite is any object, such as a door handle or the bottom of a shoe, that can spread disease. Both parasites can survive weeks to months in the environment.
  4. Young cubs suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease, unable to walk due to broken bones. These cubs suffer because of human's wanted to play with a cub.Toxoplasma – another protozoan that is contracted by accidentally ingesting the parasite after contact with feline feces. It is believed that there are already a large number of people infected with this parasite in the United States who may not even know it. A healthy immune system can keep the parasite at bay, though it can persist for long periods of time in the human body. The greatest concern comes for pregnant women or those who are immunocompromised from illness. Serious disease can occur for them including miscarriage, stillbirth, a child born with severe birth defects, ocular (eye) disease, and other symptoms such as fever, seizures, nausea, and poor coordination.
  5. Leptospira – a bacteria spread through contact with the urine of infected animals. The bacteria can penetrate through skin or mucous membranes. It can cause a wide range of symptoms that are easily mistaken as other diseases. If left untreated, it can cause severe kidney damage, liver damage, meningitis, respiratory problems, and death.
  6. Rabies virus – a deadly virus that causes inflammation of the brain, spread through the saliva of an infected individual. Transmission is most commonly through a bite. An animal can be protected from this virus through routine vaccination and proper administration. Unfortunately, many of the cubs in these businesses do not receive routine veterinary care.
  7. Bovine tuberculosis – A relative of the bacterium that causes human tuberculosis. Both bacteria affect the lungs most commonly but can occur anywhere in the body, and can cause deadly disease. Transmission is spread through the air. Most recently, in 2014, two women in the United Kingdom were diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis. It was discovered that these women caught the disease from their cat that became infective after consuming a prey animal that was infected with the bacterium. It has also been found that nearly half of the lion population in Kruger National Park are infected with bovine tuberculosis. Though at this moment, there is likely a low risk for zoonotic potential through cub-petting, as bovine tuberculosis cases continue to spread, more animals are likely to become infected, especially those animals that are consuming meat obtained in an unscrupulous fashion.

A cub is shaken and bobbled around in an attempt to make them more active for a child to play with. These are just some of the diseases that can be spread when the public comes into contact with big cats. Since no laws restrict the handling of sickly cubs, the pay-to-play cub petting schemes get away with putting the public in danger so that they can continue to make money at the risk of human health. Changing the law to put an end to cub-petting doesn’t just protect animals; it protects humans too.

Reach out to your representative today and tell them you want them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Learn more about this bill and how it will help big cats across the US at www.tcwr.org/advocacy

You can also learn about these zoonotic diseases and more on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html

Exotic Pet Trade

And The Internet

April 25, 2019

“I want a pet (insert exotic animal here).” This statement commonly comes along with a video of an animal doing something cute or unusual. Even though the person sharing will probably not act on the desire to own one, there are people who will and with the internet it is very easily done. 

The term exotic can refer to a wild animal or one that is more unusual than a standard dog or cat. The Internet has given mediums the ability to communicate and create connections around the globe.  Due to the popularity of e-commerce and social media websites, unique animals have increased in demand. Millions of people visit social media every day and many posts can become viral, especially ones with tigers, primates, and other wild animals as the main characters. These websites not only give owners a platform to share and show off, but it provides an easy way to advertise the sale of live animals with little or no concern about getting in trouble. Because there is weak enforcement, the trade of these animals is not buried in the “dark web.”

A study in 2016 found over 3,706 exotic animals listed for sale online in a span of three months. The animal species listed consisted of primates, exotic cats, canids, snakes, and many others. Some of the exotic animals sold as pets are bred in captivity but there are countless taken from the wild.  Once the animals are captured they may be used in breeding operations, sold locally, smuggle out of the country, or intentionally mislabeled as captive bred and exported legally. Some of the trade is legal, but many of the animals are captured illegally to supply the demand for exotic pets. Exotic pet breeders will produce babies for profit as juvenile animals are the most popular. The sale of live animals adds to a major part of the illegal wildlife trade, a multibillion-dollar black market. This trade is the 4th largest illegal trade globally worth around $20 billion USD annually. 

Exotic pets often suffer abuse and neglect including removal from mother at a young age, inadequate food, housing, and socialization, as well as other forms of neglect. The exotic pet trade is causing wild animal populations to decline at a devastating rate. The next time you see a video of a wild animal as a pet, think twice before clicking share to help protect and save wildlife.  

Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam

Conservation At Home

Ten Ways You Can Help

February 20, 2019

To celebrate National Wildlife Day (February 22) our education team put together a list of ways you can help conserve wildlife from your own home!

Currently, dozens of species go extinct every day due to human-related activities. The United States alone has 1,300 species of plants, birds, fish, invertebrates, and mammals listed as endangered or threatened. Fortunately, you can help conserve species from your home and throughout your neighborhood.

  1. Learn more about endangered species in your area – Conservation doesn’t only occur internationality but can happen in your own backyard. Biodiversity is a vital aspect of the world. Arkansas has 32 species currently listed as endangered. U.S Fish and Wildlife Services has the full list available for you to look at. There are also lists of endangered species for your state. Knowing what the animal or plant looks like can help you know if they are in your areas and ways you can help protect them.
  2. Make your home wildlife friendly – Wildlife is everywhere! Human-animal conflicts have risen due to the increasing amount of houses being built in the wildlife habitat. Finding ways to coexist with wildlife can help lower those conflicts.
    1. Secure your garbage in cans or bins with locking lids.
    2. If you are able, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid unwanted guests.
    3. Use window stickers to help avoid bird collisions.
    4. Consider fencing your garden to deter animals from eating.
  3. Plant and Promote Native Species – Non-native plants are becoming more and more prevalent because they may be prettier or easier to grow but they are severely impacting native populations. Without native plants, animals are without proper food and shelter. Starting your own native garden you help promote native species and their survival. Not only are plants invasive but animals can be too. People will purchase a pet from a pet store and once they are no longer “fun” or new they will release the animal. Common examples of the animals that fall victim to this are: turtles, snakes, lizards, and birds. Invasive species are outcompeting native and may take over an entire area.
  4. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park, or other space – While habitats are being lost every day to accommodate more people, there are places that are protected to help animals not lose their homes. Protected areas keep native species in their native land without disturbing them. Volunteering at your local nature center or wildlife refuge can give you the ability to help first-hand with conservation efforts. Visit www.fws.gov/refuges/,www.nps.gov , www.aza.org, and http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org for places to visit.
  5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Believe it or not, the coca cola bottle and the water bottle sitting in your trash, can end up in the stomach of an ocean animal. It’s not just a couple of animals but 60% of seabirds and 100% of sea turtles have been found to have plastic in their system as they often mistake it as food. According to USA Today, “If everyone in America recycled one plastic bottle those materials could make more than 54 million t-shirts.” In the next 25 years, it has been estimated that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, by weight. You can help change that! By recycling, your used items can become a multitude of things. If you are unsure how to start recycling, contact your local recycling center for information on what they can accept. You can also try to use less plastic in your household.
    1. Tips for reducing plastic use:
      • purchase reusable stainless steel or glass straws
      • use reusable bags when shopping
      • use reusable bottle and mugs
      • pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags
      • opt to not use plasticware at home and when getting take out
  6. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species – Souvenir shopping can be a fun experience, but sometimes souvenirs are made from animal products without your knowledge. Many of the animals on the endangered species list are at risk because of poaching. Animals lose their life to become an item for people to buy. You can help lower the need for poaching by saying no to items using endangered animal parts. If you are not able to tell if the product has been sourced ethically it is best to avoid them.
    • Common items to avoid while shopping:
    • Coral
    • Tortoiseshells
    • Shells
    • Dried sea creatures
    • Art made from ivory, teeth and bones
    • Furs
  7. Do not buy exotic “pets” – Exotic animals are wild and are adapted to living in the wild without human intervention. These animals may have been taken from their natural habitat, away from others like them, and smuggled into the country. Once bought and sold as a pet they lose the fear of people and rely on them for food and shelter. The desire to own any exotic animal is often short-lived. Many times these animals are purchased as a baby but as they age they become aggressive and unmanageable and become no longer cute in the owner’s’ eyes.  Exotic animals require specialized diets and without it they will become malnourished and may develop illnesses and disease.If you are looking for a new pet, consider adopting a house cat or dog from a shelter.
  8. Protect wildlife habitat – Scientists say the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Without their habitat, they will have no home! Just like people, wildlife must have food, water, shelter, and space to survive. Even without one of their needs the animal has a smaller chance of survival. Unfortunately, because of the need for more space for the growing population, people are affecting the rate of habitats being lost. Human developments such as logging, oil and gas drilling, and agriculture growth have all contributed to habitat loss. Protecting habitats can come in many different forms. From preserving your own backyard to donating to conservation projects you can help out!
  9. Become an Eco-Tourist – Ecotourism is a rapidly growing industry that is not only working towards keeping the ecosystem intact but helps produce economic benefits for local communities. Becoming a conscious traveler can help save thousands of species from extinction. Which life do you think animals enjoy: being trained to do trick for the entertainment of people or roaming around their natural environment. Animals would not naturally walk on a ball (bear) or stand on their back legs (elephants). Ecotourism takes people to see animals living their every day and you get to witness them peaceful and without worry. Because people are paying the see the animal from a distance in their natural world, these animals are more likely to be protected. If you are thinking of taking a vacation soon, Green Global Travel has ways to plan to become more responsible when traveling.
  10. Education – Education is the key to promoting conservation. The great thing about education is that you do not have to be in the education field. You can educate through social media and by talking to people. By talking to others, you can raise awareness for conserving species. When talking to others about ways to help, you can send them to this page or talk about these ten ways to help right from your house!

 

For more information, visit:

“Habitat Loss.” National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Threats-to-Wildlife/Habitat-Loss

“Impact of habitat loss on species.” World Wildlife Fund. http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/wildlife/problems/habitat_loss_degradation/

“Plastics in the Ocean.” Ocean conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/plastics-in-the-ocean/

“Palm Oil Crisis.” Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. http://www.cmzoo.org/index.php/conservation-matters/palm-oil-crisis/

“Smart souvenir shopping.” The Wildlife Trusts. https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/smart-souvenir-shopping

“Invasive plants have a much bigger impact than we imagine.” The Conservation. https://theconversation.com/invasive-plants-have-a-much-bigger-impact-than-we-imagine-82181

Post Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam 

Tigers in Backyards

Tiger Found In Abandoned Home In Texas

February 13, 2019

What do you picture when you hear the word tiger? Most of the time people will place the tiger in the overgrowth of a forest in Asia, and maybe it’s even stalking its prey waiting for the right moment to attack. There are more than 16,000 tigers in the world, but unfortunately, only 3,800 fit this picture. The rest are in captivity.

The United States does not have a federal law prohibiting ownership of these wild animals, making each state decide their law. The recent discovery of a female tiger in an abandoned house in Houston, TX shows just how severe the problem currently is. According to news reports, the tiger was found in the garage of a vacant house, cramped in a cage, secured only by a screwdriver and a nylon strap. Luckily, this survivor will spend the remainder of her life at a true sanctuary in Texas. The sanctuary is GFAS accredited (much like Turpentine Creek) and a fellow member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance.

This small cage was Sadie’s home until TCWR rescued her.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon situation. Many people purchase tiger cubs with the intention of having them as pets. As they grow, the owners no longer want them because of the amount of work it requires. Once it reaches this point, the tiger may be abandoned, dropped off at roadside zoos, or go missing. Some animals that call Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge home were previous pets that the owner could no longer take care of due to life situations or they were to “wild”. Sadie, a playful tiger came to us after her owner divorced. Upon arrival, we found Sadie living in a dilapidated cage in her owner’s backyard.

Current Laws

Because of the lack of federal laws, depending on which state you reside in, your neighbor could own a tiger as a pet. The state of Texas alone has more tigers living in backyards than in the wild. The state allows ownership of dangerous, exotic animals once it has been registered by proper authorities. Four states have no laws banning dangerous felines in any capacity: North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Alabama.

Creating the change for these big cats takes time, patience, and a lot of persistence. The Big Cat Public Safety Act is that change. This bill addresses a number of issues big cats face.

  • Require animals to be registered.
  • Restricts public interaction with animals, reducing the number of injuries and deaths caused by adult big cats. It would also stop cub petting.
  • Unregulated breeding would be stopped, helping prevent the overpopulation of captive tigers in the United States.
  • End the buying, selling, and trading of big cats putting an end to the big cat exotic animal trade and stop future private ownership.

The past four Congressional sessions included the introduced Big Cat Public Safety Act. It is going into the 5th session. Once reintroduced, we will let you know. In the meantime, you can tell others about this bill and the importance of it getting passed.

To learn more about this bill and how you can help, visit our Advocacy Pages

Post Written By Education Intern Abby Hickam 

Animals Used For Entertainment

Stopping The Abuse – Circuses, Acting, and Magic Shows

February 6, 2019

To make Thurston “safer” while being used for a magic show, his original owners filed down his canines and declawed him.

Imagine your favorite wild animal in its natural habitat. Do you picture them riding bicycles, standing on their heads, balancing on balls, or jumping through rings of fire? Exotic animals are constantly being used for entertainment purposes and have been prevalent in our culture for over 150 years. As a multi-billion dollar industry, many people who watch performances with wild animals do not know the reality of what goes on behind the scenes.

In the entertainment business animals are subjected to:

  • Confinement
  • Poor medical care
  • Mistreatment/Punishment
  • Inability to be free

The Truth Behind the Curtain

Savannah was reportedly an animal actress for the movie “Second Hand Lions” after she was no longer needed as a show lion she was ‘retired’ to a breeding facility. Luckily, she was rescued by TCWR.

Travel circuses are on the road for up to 11 months of the year. The animals spend between 75% to 99% of their time in cramped cages in the back of trailers, on boxcars, and trucks. They lack access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Forced to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate in the same confined space, they can develop physical and psychological damage. If an animal is to become sick or injured, they will face a long journey back to the circus’ permanent facility to recover, and often die of their illness.

Animals are punished with extreme “discipline”. This discipline is also used for training and can be in forms of whipping, hitting, poking, and shocking with electrical prods.  The popular grin monkeys are trained to do in movies and television is actually a sign of fear.

Many times the animals are torn away from their mothers as infants and are forced into training. This puts not only physical stress on the young, but the mothers are continually bred to provide more props.

What happened when the animals are too big to be used in entertainment? Since they have been deprived of using their natural behaviors, they can never be released into their native habitat. They may be dumped at roadside zoos and other facilities where they are kept in small cages or solitary confinement, making room for younger and more agile entertainers. Sometimes the animals are sold to laboratories, canned hunting facilities, sold for parts, or even to private individuals as pets.

How can you help?

When Elvis refused to be a show cat he was turned over to TCWR.

Just say NO! Avoid watching movies or television shows that exploit the use of wild animals. If a circus is using a wild animal in their show, do not go to it. There are plenty of animal-free circuses around the world that are enjoyable to watch without harming and abusing wild animals. You can go to these websites to see which circuses are animal free!

By: Abby Hickam – Education Intern

https://www.mediapeta.com/peta/PDF/Animal_Free_Circus_Factsheet.pdf

http://www.pawsweb.org/documents/ANIMAL_FREE_CIRCUSES.pdf

Making Changes To Help Environment

Turpentine Creek’s “No Plastic Bag” Initiative

January 17, 2019

Turpentine Creek has taken the pledge to reduce our plastic waste. Our mission at the refuge is to rescue abandoned, abused and unwanted big cats, but we also believe it is important to be pro-active in many areas of conservation and environmentalism. In an effort to help with the overwhelming problem of plastics in the environment, we have launched a “No Plastic Bag” initiative for our gift shops.

Last year, we began to roll out the program by offering reusable TCWR totes as a choice. This year, we will no longer carry plastic bags at all. You can join TCWR in making the world a healthier place by joining our “No Plastic Bag” initiative and get your own reusable TCWR tote today! Our beautiful, reusable bags that will be available for an additional $2 donation to the refuge.

Did you know:

  • The average American family takes home almost 1500 plastic shopping bags a year
  • Only approximately 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling
  • At least 600 different animal species have been affected by plastic pollution in the ocean
  • Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but it takes at least 500 years for it to degrade in a landfill
  • 80% of all plastic in the ocean comes from land
  • There is currently 19 BILLION pounds of garbage in the ocean
  • By 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish
  • If we do not take action, plastic pollution is predicted to double by 2025

Problem: The problem with plastics is that they do not biodegrade, once they are made they will never leave the planet. Recycling only downgrades materials, and cannot constantly be reused. Marine life is heavily affected by plastics, causing them to either eat plastic and not be able to pass it, or become entangled. One in three endangered leatherback turtles has been found to have died due to consuming plastic. Thousands of marine life dependent on the ocean die every day due to our trash. Plastics break down over time, absorbing into marine life and also ending up on our dinner plates.

Solution: Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse, and rethink the amount of plastic you consume. Avoid using single-use plastics as much as possible and use re-usable items such as water bottles, food containers, shopping bags, toothbrushes, straws, coffee cups, non-synthetic clothing etc. Properly dispose of your trash, ensuring that recyclable materials do not end up in a landfill.

Individual choices DO matter, if we all make changes now, we can greatly decrease the amount of harm that our waste does to the planet. Empower others around you to make changes in their daily lives to help the environment.

“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”-Albert Einstein

Making The Season Bright At TCWR

Shasta “Paws” and Flip The White-Nosed Coati Need Your Help

December 20, 2018

Flip the white-nosed Coati might not be able to lead a sleigh through dense fog to save the day and help Shasta “Paws” deliver gifts to all the good girls and boys, but you can help “save” animals in need by donating to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge today.

This has been an exhilarating year for the Refuge. We welcomed five animals into the TCWR furry family, created a new department dedicated to education, added an advocacy program, built two enormous natural habitats for six bears, hired an on-staff veterinarian, started constructing a new serval habitat with a temperature controlled building, heated multiple dens, ran electric throughout Rescue Ridge and part of the tour loop, installed five storm shelters (with 4 more to go), replaced our 30+-year-old meat trailer which broke down, purchased new vehicles to help team members get around the property, updated some of our lodging, and so much more. It was a year of advancement, improvement, and innovation, but also a year of unexpected expenses.

Although our amazing supporters come to our rescue often to help cover project costs, we rely on our annual visitors and lodging guests to fund our yearly operations expenses. This means that typically 100% of all donations go directly to the care of our animal residents. This year, however, our visitor attendance was lower than anticipated. This left us struggling to cover our high winter utility bills and daily operating costs. Winter is our slowest time, meaning there is very little chance that we will be able to make up the funding gap through admissions. So, this year we are asking you to help just a little bit more in the holiday season to keep the Refuge running.

We could cover the unexpected gap in our operations expenses if:

Everyone who visited our website in a month donated the cost of 1 adult ticket ($20)

OR

Everyone who came to the blog post from social media donated the cost of a Pride Membership ($100)

OR

Everyone who visits our blog donated the value of one small cat sponsorship ($1,000)

We appreciate the support and dedication of our donors, many of whom have recently given to help cover Blackfire’s surgery and the purchase of much needed medical supplies for our veterinary hospital. We want to thank everyone for their support this year and hope that 2019 will be even better than this one.

Thank you for helping us give refuge to animals in need, for supporting our mission, for helping spread the word about the plight of big cats in captivity, and for being the voice of the voiceless. Please help us help them; we couldn’t continue to rescue big cats without you.

Donate Now to help Turpentine Creek Have a Bright Holiday Season

Weathering The Storm

Severe Storm Hits TCWR

December 5, 2018

This past weekend, a severe storm ripped through a large portion of the central USA, including our little section of North West Arkansas. Strong straight-line winds whipped through the area in excess of 80 miles per hour. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge made it through the storm, but not without some damage around the property.

The team at Turpentine Creek came to work Saturday morning to numerous trees down all around the property, including one that fell onto the jump guard of Willy the lion’s habitat causing only a little dent in the fencing. Some of the buildings on property sustained damage, including the roof of our veterinary hospital, two of our safari lodge roofs, and the new bear building. The most prevalent damage was done to our shade cloths and structures. The high winds tore off all the shade cloths at rescue ridge, shredding them beyond use. The winds also bent and twisted some of the recently built metal shade structures in the self-guided discovery area. One was beyond saving in Thunder and Harley’s habitat while the others are just bent and need a little work.

Overall, the damage done to Turpentine Creek was minimal. All of our animals came through the storm safely. Luckily, the team was well prepared and made sure all of the animals were secured in their night houses for the evening. Night houses are roofed structures that protect animals from flying and falling debris. They offer safe heavy cement dens for the animals to escape from the weather and feel secure. As a facility that faces storms frequently throughout the year, night houses are vital to protecting our animals.

We have also been working over the past year to protect our team and visitors from severe storms as well. This year we installed multiple storm shelters all over our property. These shelters are FEMA approved and will protect our humans from tornados. Protecting the animals that call the refuge home is essential, but we also have to protect the people who dedicate their lives to caring for the animals as well.

Despite the damage, Turpentine Creek is open to the public. Some of our lodging units might not be available as we replace the roofing and our team will be a little busier than usual cleaning up all the trees, but we are still open for visitors. Our insurance will help cover the repairs on the buildings and we have a handy set of team members that can rebuild the damaged shade structures when we have time. Turpentine Creek weathered the most recent storm well. Thank you to everyone who has shown concern over the Refuge this past week. Please donate and help us help them during our slow season this winter.

 

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