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Thor was rescued on January 29, 2012, at the age of 11 years old. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge received a call about a lion at a hunting and game show. The sickly looking lion was being kept in a small cage that was not attached to the floor. Team members from Turpentine Creek went to check it out and found Thor.
Thor had spent most of his life traveling around the country as an entertainment animal. He was said to have even starred in a commercial at one time, though we aren’t sure which one. His owner was wanting to get out of the entertainment business and was willing to relinquish him to the Refuge.
Upon arrival at Turpentine Creek, Thor was very malnourished, had worms, muscle atrophy in his back legs from lack of use, spinal issues, and much more. This sickly lion was so underweight and malnourished that he looked like an adolescent instead of a full grown lion.
After months of proper nutrition, medication, and much attention, he transformed into the beautiful lion he was meant to be. For six years, Thor lived a peaceful life at Turpentine Creek, where he could roam his large grassy habitats and rub against trees – one of his favorite things to do.
Sadly, Thor passed away in 2018, due to health issues related to his life before arriving at Turpentine Creek. He is just one example of the abuse many “entertainment” big cats face daily.
Big Nasty was one of 34 big cats living at a dilapidated breeding facility in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 2012, when Turpentine Creek received the rescue call. This rescue, known as the Mountainburg Rescue, was the largest one of its kind at that time. Turpentine Creek was contacted by the local sheriff’s department to help peacefully relocate them. The owner, a 72-year-old woman in failing health, could no longer care for the animals.
Because the facility was not open to the public, USDA regulations did not apply and no governing body inspected it. Turpentine Creek arrived to find a maze of cages that were in terrible disrepair. Some cages were only 6 feet tall with no roof, had holes in the fencing, improper shelter, and large gaps under the fencing. The facility was falling apart and it was very dangerous. Many of the animals were ill and hadn’t been visited by a veterinarian in a long time, and some of the animals passed away before the rescue could be completed due to their poor health.
Turpentine Creek took 28 of the 34 big cats, including Big Nasty. Many of the animals were very skittish around humans and water. It took a long time and a great deal of patience to help the Mountainburg cats finally feel settled in.
Most of the animals from Mountainburg were already in their late teens when they were rescued. Big Nasty passed away in 2017, at the age of 19, due to health complications associated with advanced age.
Breeding facilities, like Mountainburg, are often times unregulated and many animals are in poor health. Big Nasty and his 33 companions spent their lives in small cages only to be exploited for their ability to produce money-making cubs. When their owner could no longer care for them they suffered.
Kenny the white tiger is the “poster boy” of white tiger inbreeding. Kenny was born in 1999, to two white tiger parents, who were brother and sister. He, his brother Willie, and his parents were rescued in 2000 when Kenny was 18 months old.
Kenny is well known for his bulldog-like appearance, which was due to inbreeding. The owner told the rescue team that he usually killed deformed cubs, but his son thought Kenny was too cute, so he let him live.
Turpentine Creek was contacted by his owner who was getting out of the white tiger breeding business. Apparently, the going price for white cubs was down. White cubs, he said, that once sold for at least $40,000, were only going for $5,000.
Kenny had many health issues over his short life and in 2008, he passed away due to an aggressive form of skin cancer. Unregulated and unethical breeding practices were the cause of Kenny’s deformities and the death sentence of countless numbers of cubs killed just because they didn’t have the “right” look.
Black Fire, Rocklyn, and Peyton
Black Fire, Rocklyn, and Peyton were 3 of 115 animals that were at a breeding roadside zoo in Colorado in 2016. The owner was battling cancer and could no longer run the facility and care for all 115 animals. Turpentine Creek worked with 14 other sanctuaries to rehome the 115 animals. Turpentine Creek took 33 of the animals, including Black Fire, Rocklyn, and Peyton. They were part of the facilities pay-to-play cub petting program.
When TCWR arrived at the Colorado facility, Black Fire, Rocklyn, and Peyton were unable to walk and were in excruciating pain. They were suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease, an issue caused by not receiving the proper amount of calcium during their first few months of life — each cub had fractured and deformed bones in their legs because of this.
Turpentine Creek brought them to the Refuge and put them on a special, calcium-rich diet. For the first few months it was very touch-and-go, but eventually, they grew strong enough to run and play like normal cubs. They will forever have issues due to the Metabolic Bone Disease. Peyton will always limp, Black Fire has narrow and deformed hips, Rocklyn’s legs are bowed, they are also smaller than some of their other siblings that came from the same facility.
Since cubs are only allowed to be handled until they are 30 pounds or 3 months old, many cub petting facilities will purposefully underfeed their cubs to keep them smaller for longer. Because cubs can only be used for two months, cub petting facilities need a constant supply of cubs to keep a steady source of income. After cubs are too large to participate many facilities dispose of them by either selling them to unsuspecting “pet” owners, give them to breeding facilities, or euthanize them.
Vada was rescued at the age of two in 1998, in Denver, Colorado. He was being kept as a “pet” by a private owner. His owner had used lineman wire pliers to cut off his canines to make him a “safe pet” to play with. When that didn’t stop Vada’s aggression he contacted Turpentine Creek to take Vada. Vada had to have extensive dental work to stop his suffering and to help make his life more comfortable.
Kitty was rescued in 1998, from Independence, Kansas, at the age of two. She had been kept as a pet by a family with a 10-year-old son. One day, Kitty got into a fight with a dog. The son attempted to break up the fight and ended up injured, requiring stitches. After the accident, the Department of Health in Kansas informed the family that they were to euthanize Kitty and have her brain analyzed for rabies. The family decided to instead send Kitty to Turpentine Creek and have their son get the rabies shot, saving Kitty’s life. The Department of Health in Kansas was not pleased with the family’s decision but eventually agreed to let Kitty live.This is not the case with most dangerous animal attacks, typically it is a death sentence for the “pet.”