Category Archives: Turpentine Creek

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!


Small Cat Rescue Update

Growing and Getting Stronger

July 20, 2018

Turpentine Creek’s newest residents are making strides towards recovery. The two young male servals and one male F1 savannah cat are still in quarantine at our vet hospital for the time being, but we hope within a few weeks they will be healthy enough to move into their new habitats.

Our savannah cat introduced himself as Tigger when our veterinarian Dr. Anne Brenneke came to the refuge to run a full health exam on him. Tigger is a healthy 3-year-old male that weighs 12lbs. We did discover that he had been declawed on all four paws before his arrival at the Refuge, so we will be monitoring him closely for signs of discomfort or arthritis in the future.

Our little serval males are growing stronger by the day. The littlest male has gained over 1lb since his arrival. The blood tests on his ionized calcium levels also came back very low, which indicates that he has Metabolic Bone Disease. X-rays did show that this little male had a fracture on his back left leg due to the Metabolic Bone Disease.

Our large male serval also gained nearly a pound and is very energetic. His ionized calcium levels were not nearly as low as his brother’s but still low enough that we are monitoring him. He loves to pounce and play all day, and we are excited to see how much he has grown in the short time he has been with us. We also found that both serval boys have ringworm on their ears, so we have begun treatment for that as well.

Although the two young serval brothers have yet to be named, we are hopeful to announce soon how we will go about naming them. We appreciate all the encouragement and donations from our supporters since the rescue. Please continue to donate and spread the word about the reality of the exotic pet trade in the USA.

Keeper Week 2018

Team Work #IAmAKeeper

July 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Three New Rescues

Arrive at Turpentine Creek

July 10, 2018

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has three new animal residents! Early Friday morning, two vehicles arrived at the Refuge after an 18-hour road trip that began in Buffalo New York. Within the two vehicles were seven animals ready to start their new lives. Three, two young 12-week-old servals and one three-year-old Savannah Cat, had arrived at their final destination, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The other four, two servals and two caracals, would be continuing on to their new home at Safe Haven in Nevada. Turpentine Creek worked with seven agencies, including law enforcement and World Animal Protection, to complete the rescue.

The seven animals were rescued from a man who had allegedly been selling them as pets, which is illegal in the state of New York. Information on the rescue is limited due to the fact that it is still an active investigation. We will release more details after the investigation is concluded.

The older male F1 Savannah Cat was doing well enough upon arrival but the two young male servals were in poor body condition, underweight, lethargic, and diarrhea. They both needed immediate veterinary care and were taken to be examined by our Veterinarian Dr. Anne Brenneke at St. Francis Veterinary Clinic.

The healthiest of the two young servals weighed in at 3.8 lbs and has low bone density due to improper diet. The smaller of the two only weighed 2.8 lbs, has a slight infection, worms, anemia, and low bone density due to improper diet. Both babies are now on a nutrient-rich diet, being treated for coccidia and giardia, receiving medication to help with diarrhea, and the smallest is also on antibiotics and deworming medication.

All three rescues are scheduled for a follow up on Wednesday, July 11, to check their health progress. Dr. Brenneke has been consulted over the phone twice a day for verbal check-ups and both are improving daily. At this point, Dr. Brenneke says the prognosis for both young servals is looking good.

They will be staying in our onsite veterinary hospital in quarantine until further notice. Once they have been given a clean bill of health by our veterinarian they will be moved to their new habitats for the public to see.

As of right now, none of the new rescues have names. Watch our social media for more information on the naming process, adoptions/sponsorships, and updates on animal health. You can donate now to help us give these new rescues a wonderful life with us and help us continue rescuing animals in need.

Territorial Relocation

Moving Poncho

July 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Putting the Cat in EduCATion

TCWR’s Online Fundraiser

June 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

Artwork Jewelry Gift Certificates to Local Businesses And More!

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

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

Keeping Big Cats as Pets

Why is that a problem?

June 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

The Big Cat Public Safety Act

Making Progress in Congress

June 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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