Category Archives: Turpentine Creek

Animal Sanctuary Appreciation Day

Celebrating True Sanctuaries Around The USA

November 4, 2020

Turpentine Creek is taking a moment to celebrate the second annual Animal Sanctuary Appreciation Day on November 6th, but only a brief moment, because you know… the animals don’t like it when we don’t get them their treats on time.

The Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance (BCSA), Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), and the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), have joined together to celebrate the over 100 true sanctuaries around the US that work hard rescuing, rehabilitating, and caring for thousands of animals every single day.

It truly takes a lot of people to make sure the animals at true sanctuaries are well cared for; from animal care team members, maintenance, tour guides, educators, office team members, fundraisers, and so much more, each person is vital to the mission of a true sanctuary. Sanctuaries always prioritize the safety and wellbeing of the animals in their care. Team members work no matter the weather, rain, shine, snow, storms, the animals will always need food, water, and care. Their dedication is part of what makes true sanctuaries great.

We want to encourage everyone to join us in honoring true sanctuaries, like Turpentine Creek, on Friday, November 6. But, this day isn’t just about showing appreciation for all the hard work of true sanctuaries, but also to help educate about what a true sanctuary is and why they are so important. Being able to identify a true sanctuary from a road-side-zoo/pseudo sanctuary is important.

Celebrating Animal Sanctuary Appreciation Day is easy! The best way to celebrate is to help spread the word and educate the public about true sanctuaries! Share a social post from one of the many GFAS,  BCSA, or NAPSA members, talk to a friend about why cub petting is bad, donate to your favorite true sanctuary, create a fundraiser, say thank you via social media, support conservation education efforts, or donate enrichment items to animals!

This year, we are also hosting our annual Santa Claws Is Coming To Town Holiday Online Auction! You can celebrate Animal Sanctuary Appreciation Day by joining in on the online auction and getting your own little piece of Turpentine Creek!

Learn more about what a true sanctuary is here.

Download a copy of our true sanctuary checklist here.

Second Annual Holiday Auction

Santa Claws Is Coming To Town

October 21, 2020

Get ready, Turpentine Creek has the “purrfect” holiday gift items! On Nov. 6th at 8 am until the 8th at 8 pm CST you can bid on any of the 90 items that will be up for auction during our second annual Santa Claws Is Coming To Town Online Auction! 

We know that our supporters love giving gifts, we see it all the time with donations to the Refuge, but your holiday purchase this year can do double duty! You can buy an amazing gift (even one for yourself) that also helps us care for the animals that call the Refuge home! 

This year, we have nearly 90 items available, many of which were made by our animal residents! From animal made gifts such as paw paintings, paw prints, keychains, and holiday ornaments, to donated gift certificates, animal-themed artwork, and a one-of-a-kind TCWR themed lamp, there is a little something for everybody in this online auction!

This year, we’ve added some unique items to our auction list, paw prints! Typically, we offer paw paintings, wonderful artistic creations made by our animal residents (we still have some of these as well), but this year we took the opportunity to capture paw print paintings from our animals when they were sedated for veterinary procedures. We got paw prints from five animals, including B.B. King, who has been receiving chemo treatments every three weeks. There is a very limited supply of these and it is rare we get the chance to get such wonderful keepsakes of our animals!

All auction items have been donated to Turpentine Creek or made by our team, so all proceeds will go directly towards the care of the animals! 

Turpentine has been hit hard by COVID-19, between our three-month closure to limited tours and lodging availability we have spent all year trying to make ends meet. During the last few months of the year is typically when 50% of our funds are donated. This auction kicks off our holiday giving season, it is a great opportunity to complete some much needed holiday gift shopping as well as supporting the Refuge.

You can get a sneak peek (and start planning what you want to bid on) of our auction on our auction page. And please remember, if you don’t win the item(s) you bid on, you can still donate your bid, or a portion of it, to the refuge! Every little bit helps!

Falling Leaves Lifting Spirits

Changing Seasons At TCWR

October 15, 2020

Although summer is typically our busiest time for visitors, fall is where the fun is! Summer is filled with sleepy cats and splashing pools, but fall is filled with fun, play, and leaves! Lions, tigers, and bears all love the cooler weather. This small window of time sees tigers perking up from the long hot summer, lions enjoying the last warm afternoons, and bears foraging to get ready for a long winter nap. This is the perfect time for a visit! 

During the fall our animals get a little extra fun enrichment. Nature offers our team some unique and engaging materials to offer our big cats and bears! Amazingly, tigers love pouncing in leaf piles, rolling around, and flattening them into submission. 

Pumpkins are a hit with all of the animals that call the Refuge home. Although the big cats don’t eat them, they enjoy sinking their teeth into their orange flesh and ripping them to shreds. Bears get extra special treats from nature, nuts, leaves, and pumpkins, which make for sweet snacks as they plump up for the winter. All of these fun enriching items come directly from nature for all the animals. It is wonderful to watch how much childlike wonder these animals display in the fall!

Fall not only brings around cooler weather for the animals to enjoy but also perfect days for our human visitors! Arkansas fall is a ‘Goldilocks’ dream… not too hot, not too cold, just right! In addition to that, the autumn leaves make the beautiful Ozark mountains even more beautiful! Fall peak is predicted to hit around November 2nd but the changing leaves have already begun.

If you can’t make it this year, start making plans for a trip in the fall of 2021! This is the best time of year for an overnight visit, weekend trip, or week-long vacation! You can’t go wrong spending a beautiful fall day at Turpentine Creek! Plan your visit, stay overnight, or donate today to support our animals as we also prepare for winter at the Refuge!

Time Is Running Out

Big Cat Public Safety Act – 116th Session ends in January

October 7, 2020

Two tigers - one orange and one white - in small cages at WIN in Indiana

Two tigers waiting for rescue at WIN in Indiana.

For almost two years, Turpentine Creek, our supporters, and other true sanctuaries have been asking our congressmen to protect big cats and the public from these dangerous wild animals. Since January 3, 2019, people all over the country have been reaching out through email, phone, and in person telling their congressmen to put an end to hands-on interaction with big cats and private ownership. 

Many of them have heard your pleas and in the House of Representatives over half of them have co-signed on H.R. 1380 – The Big Cat Public Safety Act. Currently, the bill has stalled after being put on the calendar, on June 8, 2020. No further progress had been made in the House;  if it were to be presented it would quickly pass.

New rescued lion Chief gets a veterinary checkup at TCWR

Many rescues from pay-to-play facilities have health issues – like Chief who came dehydrated and infested with worms.

In the Senate the bill has been sitting and has yet to be assigned to a subcommittee, but it already has 30 co-signers for S. 2561 – The Big Cat Public Safety Act, and it only needs 51 to have a majority if it can get to vote. 

Although the clock is ticking down, with the 116th Congress session ending January 3, 2021, we cannot give up hope yet. Your voices have been heard and so many Congressmen have shown support for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. We must continue to reach out to our representatives, especially our Senators, to tell them that we must protect not just big cats in captivity but also the humans that are put at risk when hands-on interaction and private ownership is allowed. 

Miles, an orange tigress, relaxes in a large grassy habitat at her new home in Arkansas.

True sanctuaries, like TCWR, don’t allow hands-on interaction with their animals.

Our most recent rescue of eight cats from a breeding facility that offered pay-to-play interactions with big cats is a prime example of the abuse that these animals face when they are exploited for monetary gain. They came to us in poor health, infested with worms, and many other health issues. They are now on the road to recovery but it is only by ending hands-on interaction with big cats that we can protect future generations from this type of abuse and neglect. 

Please add your voice to ours and tell your congressman to support H.R. 1380 and S. 2561. As 2020 comes to a close, let us take one giant step towards protecting captive big cats in the USA. Click here to send a message to your congressmen now and tell them that protecting big cats is important to you.

Rescue Report – WIN

Eight Animals Saved From Cub Petting Scheme

September 30, 2020

cages and people at Wildlife In Need ready to rescue animals

Rescue team at Wildlife In Need

For months Turpentine Creek has been in a holding pattern waiting on the court case between People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Wildlife In Need’s (WIN) Tim Stark to conclude. In August, when the court ruled in PETA’s favor, Turpentine Creek began preparing for a rescue we knew was to come. The court conducted research on sanctuaries around the country, including background checks, accreditations, and USDA reports to determine the best places for the animals to be placed. The federal judge decided Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was the best place for some of these animals to live out the rest of their lives.

All of these animals were exploited and used by WIN for their cub petting scheme. Many of the animals used by WIN were needlessly and cruelly declawed so that they would be ‘safer’ for the public to handle.

Chief the Lion getting fluids during rescue at Wildlife In Need

Emily and Tanya giving fluids to Chief at W.I.N.

The court found that the declawing procedures were “a gross failure to meet the accepted standards of medical care,” and that pulling young cubs from their mothers to be handled by the public “deprives cubs of vital components that help develop a healthy immune system, also subjects cubs to extreme stress.” You can read more on PETA’s website.

For weeks we waited and prepared; finally the call came in that we would be off to rescue eight big cats on Friday, September 18th. Our rescue team of six individuals packed up our two rescue trailers and set out Thursday evening so that we could get on the property first thing Friday morning.

This rescue was dangerous; only days earlier the Indianapolis Zoo had conducted their own rescue of the non-feline and small cat residents. They reported 31 animals missing that should have been there (almost $200,000 worth of animals!). Some of the animals were later found in a box truck about a mile from the facility in cages with no access to food, water, or proper ventilation of the vehicle. A warrant for Tim Stark was placed since he did not comply with court orders.

Emily McCormack from TCWR with sedated white tiger Glacier

Emily vaccinating a sedated Glacier at W.I.N.

When the rescue team arrived, they were met with a SWAT team doing a sweep of the property and multiple US Marshals who were there to guard the rescuers. It was a terrifying situation and the first time ever the US Marshals have had to assist on a rescue of this nature.

Luckily, the team was well prepared and quickly loaded the eight animals coming to our property.

The team left the WIN property at about 5pm EST and began the nearly 600-mile journey back home. They arrived safely at the Refuge early Saturday morning with our newest animal residents.

We managed to rescue four tigers and four lions. Five of the eight had to be sedated for transport but the team worked efficiently to make sure all animals were secured for transport. Initial exams of the animals show that all animals are infested with worms and have other health issues. We are conducting wellness exams on the animals currently.

We want everyone to welcome our newest residents:

Chief the lion in a large grassy habitat at his new home at TCWR

Chief enjoying his new habitat at TCWR

Chief, a thirteen-year-old male lion (DOB 10/3/06), he was dehydrated and sickly when rescued. We have taken him for a wellness exam, and he shows signs of malnutrition, a severe case of worms, and other health issues that we will need to work to correct. He lives with Mauri his mate.

Mauri, a four-year-old female lion (DOB 11/7/16), lives with Chief and after we can safely sterilize Chief will be re-introduced. Currently, they alternate days in their habitat. Once it is safe, we will either give Chief a vasectomy or spay Mauri so that they can be re-introduced and live together again.

Savanna, a six-year-old female lion (DOB 10/8/12), lives alone and is a little cautious about her new lion neighbor Tsavo.

Miles an orange tigress enjoying her large grassy habitat at TCWR

Miles enjoying her new habitat at TCWR

Miles (MeGyrl), is a seven-year-old female tiger (DOB 9/19/13), she currently lives at Rescue Ridge and is still getting used to her new home. Although it is rare, we do sometimes slightly alter names or give nicknames to animals for our records. MeGyrl is one such case, we’ve updated her name to Miles.

Hurricane, a fifteen-year-old male tiger (DOB 7/19/05), lives with his brother Avalanche on the habitat tour loop. They are quickly settling into their new home.

Avalanche, a fifteen-year-old male tiger (DOB 7/19/05), lives with his brother Hurricane on the habitat tour loop. They get along well and still cautious around visitors.

Glacier a white tiger scratching a tree in his new grassy habitat at TCWR

Glacier enjoying his new habitat at TCWR

Glacier, a thirteen-year-old male white tiger (DOB 3/19/07), was rescued with Ungowwa. We performed a wellness exam on him and neutered him so that we could re-introduce him to Ungowwa.

Ungowwa, an twelve-year-old female lion (DOB 5/10/08), who lives with Glacier. Although they lived together most of their lives, they reported that this pair never reproduced. She loves her new habitat and spends most days lazing around under the trees.

Ungowwa a female lioness in her large grassy habitat at TCWR

Ungowwa enjoying her new habitat at TCWR

We are glad that we could provide a forever home for these beautiful animals. Rescuing and caring for big cats is a lifetime commitment. Big cats in captivity can live upwards of 20 years and it costs approximately $10,000 a year to care for a single big cat. Please donate to help us care for our newest animal residents as well as our other animal residents. Your support saves lives!

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle with TCWR

Working Towards A Better World

September 16, 2020

During your next visit to Turpentine Creek, you might notice a new look in the form of our recycling and trash receptacles located throughout the refuge. We are excited to announce that Turpentine Creek received a grant from Keep America Beautiful in aiding our recycling efforts! 

TCWR has been working for years to improve our environmental impact through composting, recycling, and our food forests. With the help of Keep America Beautiful we are ramping up our efforts in environmental conservation with a more in depth recycling program. 

Through the grant we received a total of 14 containers, 10 of which are 32” round recycle only bins and 4 are source-separated square bins that also include a trash receptacle. Every week, the bins will be emptied and the recycling weighed to input the data in the Keep America Beautiful Database. 

We want to encourage visitors to help protect and conserve the environment during their visit to the refuge through our recycling program. Every year plastic generation makes up over 35 million tons in the United States alone. Nearly half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made since 2000 and sadly less than ⅕ of all plastics are recycled globally. This leads to a large number of plastics sitting in our landfills, oceans, forests, and neighborhoods. Not only creating an unsatisfying look but more importantly it is creating a life-threatening situation for wildlife. 

According to a study done by the Container Recycling Institute, in 2015 nearly a million plastic bottles were sold every minute around the globe. In the United States alone, that was equivalent to 346 bottles per person. As the global population grows, so does the creation of plastics. The bottles only make up a small portion of all plastics that are created and used every day but every small part makes a big part in helping to reduce, reuse, and recycle. 

We encourage our supporters to not only recycle the next time you visit the Refuge, but to also recycle at home. Taking a few extra steps to reduce, reuse, and recycle can help save the world. Thank you for your support in this time of need, every little bit helps. Donate now to help us save lives.

Protecting Our Residents

Dealing with Nature at our Refuge

September 9, 2020

Turpentine Creek is set on the edge of the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Our 459 acres property is filled with rolling mountains, lush forests, and plenty of native creatures that helps add to gorgeous atmosphere of our refuge. A large draw to our facility is our large, natural habitats filled with trees, grass, and plenty of space. Although this is wonderful for our animals, giving them wonderful spaces to explore every day, there are some drawbacks to being surrounded by so much nature.

The team members of Turpentine Creek spend a lot of time maintaining our habitats through mowing and weedeating. We also have to continually tick dust to protect our big cats from Bobcat fever, fleas, and other blood born illnesses, which are not only deadly to small cats but to big cats as well. It is difficult to treat big cats for ticks and fleas, so treating the grounds and habitats is the best way to protect our animals. This is time consuming and expensive, but worth it to protect our animals.

Another issue we face being surrounded by nature are smaller animals. Snakes, opossums, armadillos, spiders, and other small creatures that cannot be kept out of habitats. These animals either dig and destroy the habitat grounds or can be a threat to our animals. Recently, Koda, a sixteen year old male black bear, passed away due to complications from a rattle snake bite. We do our best to keep snakes away from our animals but there is no way to completely keep them out. These venomous snakes can be a threat to both our animal residents and our team members. We will mourn the loss of Koda, but sometimes nature wins no matter what we do to prepare.

A beautiful manicured facility is the result of our hard work, but the safety of our animals is always top priority. Luckily, as summer comes to an end, yard work takes less of our time. We still have to continue to treat for ticks and fleas but as the temperature cools off many of the other animals will go into hibernation and we will get a reprieve from them and the dangers that they pose. When visiting the Refuge please keep in mind that we do have lots of wild wildlife that also calls our grounds home. These animals are not wilder nor are they tame, keep your distance and be prepared.

With your help, we can continue to protect our animals. Your donation allows us to maintain our habitats, rescue animals, and provide quality care for our residents. We also want to remind you to check to see if your employer offers matching donations, this way your donation goes even further! Thank you for your help and dedication to our mission!

Continuing Education During Covid

Virtual Learning

September 2, 2020

In the fall, Turpentine Creek’s education department is usually busy scheduling lots of field trips and special offsite presentations. As everyone knows this year has not gone as planned and adjustments have had to be made to continue educating the next generation of animal advocates and adults. 

Due to many COVID restrictions and changes in school field trip regulations, Turpentine Creek has decided to not conduct onsite field trips or go to offsite presentations for the rest of the year. But that doesn’t mean that we have put a halt to educating! As a true sanctuary, it is extremely important to promote our mission everywhere that we can and that is why we have decided to conduct virtual tours and field trips. 

At the beginning of 2020, our education department began utilizing Skype in the Classroom to reach people all over the world! Because of this, when the refuge closed in March, our team was able to conduct virtual lessons to classrooms while working at home. When it became time to make a decision to allow onsite field trips, we wanted to make sure that everyone was able to stay as safe as possible. 

We currently have two options for virtual learning opportunities.    

  1. Free to classrooms: Predators, Not Pets. This virtual lesson gets your classroom acquainted with what a true sanctuary is and why Turpentine Creek exists. We also explore the adaptations that make big cats and bears predators and not pets or props. This is interactive, meaning students can ask questions about the animals and Turpentine Creek. These lessons tend to be anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour long. 
  2. $30: Virtual Tour around the Refuge. Experience a tour around the refuge right from your computer! Our content producer and editor created a video of our animals for your group to see the cats in action. We decided to create a pre-recorded video instead of a live tour for a couple of reasons. We didn’t want our wifi to go out in the middle of your tour and you wouldn’t be able to see the animals. This video ensures you will see the animals. During this virtual tour, our education team will talk about where the animals were rescued from, their personalities, enrichment activities our animals enjoy, and many other things! Just like Predators, Not Pets, your group will have the opportunity to ask questions. 

These virtual learning experiences are not only for school groups but also adult groups. We change the tour based on the age of the group!  We are happy to talk to all groups both students and adults. These virtual opportunities are currently hosted Monday- Friday for two times each day. If you are interested in scheduling a tour with us, please contact our education department at or via phone at 479-253-5841 EXT 3.  You can learn more about all of our educational opportunities on our new education website at

New Batch of Keepers

Welcoming TCWR’s Newest Interns

August 27, 2020

Turpentine Creek has a world-renowned internship program. Every six months, we offer individuals with at least a Bachelor’s degree in an animal-related field to come get hands-on experience helping care for and rescue big cats and other animals in need. These individuals dedicate at least six months of their lives to helping Turpentine Creek care for survivors of the Big Cat Trade, in addition to bears and other exotics in need.

On August 15, our newest batch of interns began their six-month adventure. Some of these interns have already been with us for a previous internship(s). Others are new arrivals, but no matter what, they are in for a lot of hard work. 

We want to welcome our new interns: Brooke Barnett, Delaney Dicus, Arpan Paul, Katline Ronsse, Molly Seeburger and Lauren Teeling.

We would also like to welcome back our second round intern:  Shelby Boyle, Nathan Sanchez and Jadranka Wevgoldt, who despite the crazy COVID adjustments, are sticking it out for another round!

We also appreciate our third round interns, Yarelis Nazario Santana and Jade Schleicher.

And, we want to say a special “thank-you” to Jason LaVarnway, who is staying for his fifth internship with us! (that is over 2 ½ years!)

This internship looks different from previous years. Due to COVID-19, we had three interns back out shortly before the internship began, so we had to adapt and adjust having only 12 animal care interns this round instead of the typical 15-16. Luckily, we have a great team that is quick to adapt to any challenge.

We are very fortunate to have these 12 interns on our team and take on quite a bit more each day.  Nevertheless, we were able to make sure that this didn’t affect the daily lives of the animals.  They are getting everything they are used to with diets, enrichment, training, medications, maintaining their exhibits, and the list goes on and on!  Welcome to the team and we thank you so much for your dedication!  Regardless of a pandemic, the animals in captivity must be given the absolute best care,” stated Emily McCormack, Animal Curator. 

In addition to our animal care internship, our education internship began on August 15th as well. A past animal care intern, Jessica Vineyard, applied and was accepted to our education internship program. She will spend the next six months helping us educate kids and adults alike about big cats. We are focusing heavily on utilizing virtual platforms such as  Zoom, Skype In The Classroom, and our new education website to adapt to the challenges COVID has presented.

We are excited to have our new education intern Jessica join our department, she has hit the ground running. TCWR is dedicated to educating visitors from around the world both at the refuge and globally through our virtual lessons on the abuse that exotic animals face day to day and how they can make a change,” said Beckie Moore, Education Coordinator.

We are looking forward to seeing just what amazing things this group of interns accomplishes over their six months with us. Your support makes it possible for us to not only care for the animals that call our Refuge home but also to educate the next generation of animal care professionals. Please donate today to help us, help them. 

Bid For Big Cats

Two-Day Online Auction

August 5, 2020

Turpentine Creek is hosting a two-day online auction to support the animals that call turpentine Creek home.

Get ready to take home your own piece of TCWR or an awesome animal themed item! Our online auction will run for 36 hours! From August 7 at 8am until August 8 at 8pm, you can bid on your favorite items, including animal created artwork!

Mack Paw Painting

Since many of our in-person events had to be canceled this year, we are trying to offer more online opportunities to help our supporters still get to engage with and help the Refuge! We encourage our supporters to visit auction page to check out over 80 items that will be up for auction in the coming days!

Items up for auction include donated jewelry, handmade hair scrunchies, accessories, cookware, gift packages, lodging certificate, artwork, animal made artwork, animal toy holiday ornaments, animal destroyed toys, key chains, quilts, gift certificates, and more! There is a little for everyone at all price ranges. Now is the perfect time to start your holiday shopping with amazing items that will help support the animals that call Turpentine Creek home.

Enrichment toy flower pot

Turpentine Creek has been hit hard by COVID-19, although we reopened to the public July 1, 2020, we have been trying to make up a deficit in income of over $593,000, in comparison to 2019, from lack of ticket sales, events, and lodging. Our most basic budget to run the Refuge while open to the public is $173,000 per month if we have no projects, repairs, rescues, or builds in the works.

As school starts back up, we typically see a drastic drop in visitors and our income shifts to a heavy reliance on donations. Approximately half of our annual income comes through in end-of-year giving. We are hopeful that our donors will continue to rally and support the Refuge, as usual, but are also cautious since many people and businesses have been hard hit by COVID closures. Your donations help us continue to provide quality care for our animals and rescue animals in need. Please join us for our auction and if you do not win your bid on item(s) please consider donating your bid amount to help the animals at TCWR.