New freezer built for Turpentine Creek

A handful of interns pause from preparing food for the animals to show off the new freezer being built for TCWR. It will hold up to eight week's food when finished later this month.

A handful of interns pause from preparing food for the animals to show off the new freezer being built for TCWR. It will hold up to eight week’s food when finished later this month.

Feeding 100+ lions, tigers, and bears at the rate of 800-1,000 lbs. of raw meat per day – that’s 365 days a year — gets pretty tricky. Luckily, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has been blessed with many generous donors, including Tyson Foods, which regularly supplies huge amounts of raw chicken for our exotic population.

But where do you store it? Over the years TCWR has evolved an efficient and well-organized commissary (where interns butcher and prepare the food for the cats), with a mechanized sorting station, a chain hoist, and charts to show which animals gets what kinds of food based on their particular dietary needs.

A vital part of the commissary is its freezer capabilities. Currently TCWR can store enough meat to feed its big cats for about two weeks. But that item, freezer space, is about to take a big jump forward.

“The new freezer is 24’ x 32’,” says Turpentine Creek Vice-President Scott Smith. “It will hold tens of thousands of pounds more meat than we can store now. One third of the new space is a refrigerated area where the meat can be thawed according to USDA specifications, and the remaining two-thirds will be freezer. We can go from storing two weeks’ worth of food to six to eight weeks. It’s a huge improvement.”

The construction of the new freezer will also make it much easier for the interns to unload and store the meat from the trailer. Instead of having to unload the meat a box at a time, back-tiring labor, the truck will now be able to back right up to the freezer unload area, and the 2,000+ lb. pallets of chicken can be wheeled off the trailer and directly into the freezer, saving both time and tired muscles.

The unit will contain new storage racks and bins as well. Thanks to generous donations, the freezer is scheduled to be finished by the middle of March.