Not Our King

A TCWR Response To The Netflix Documentary “Tiger King”

March 27, 2020

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has recently been contacted by concerned supporters about the Netflix Docu-series “Tiger King.” Joe Exotic is one of the many animal exploiters that we are aware of and disprove of. These facilities; such as those ran by Doc Antle, Tim Stark, James Garretson, and Jeff Lowe who are also featured in this docu-series, exploit animals for profit. They do not work to conserve big cats, only use them to make money.

“We have been dealing with people like Joe Exotic for 28 + years. We are proud to give these beautiful animals a second chance by providing a great quality forever home where they can relax and live out their lives in big open habitats with great care everyday and no one forcing them to do anything but just live!” Miranda Smith, Hospitality Coordinator at Turpentine Creek, 3rd generation TCWR and daughter of President and Co-Founder Tanya Smith said.

We provide the best quality care possible in captivity, building large grassy habitats for our animals to enjoy and providing them the best food and veterinary care. Our team is composed of paid highly educated professionals with at least a bachelor’s degree in an animal related field. We have an on-staff veterinarian and a world-renowned animal care internship to make sure our animals are well cared for.

Large carnivores, like tigers and lions, are dangerous and it is for their safety and yours that you should never participate in hands-on interaction with big cats of any age. We are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a founding member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, certified through USDA and the state of Arkansas, and a member of AAZK.

Erik Goode, co-director of Tiger King, has been quoted by Vanity Fair Magazine as to stating “The real takeaway should be to give your money to conservation programs around the world that are really working hard to save tigers in their range countries and not give your money to sanctuaries, which are really, effectively just caging tigers and cats.”

Although we fully agree that people should not support roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries, this statement leaves out an entire group of people, including Turpentine Creek, which are just trying to do the right thing and save survivors of the exotic pet trade. These rescue facilities, true sanctuaries like Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, do not buy, breed, sell, trade, take off- property, or allow any hands-on interaction with big cats.

“People like Joe only want fame. At TCWR all we want is to provide quality lifetime care for the animals. It’s amazing to watch the animals we rescue who come in scared and timid realizing real quick we are there to take care of them. It’s a whole new world for them and it’s super special to see them open up,” Miranda Smith said.

We are not here to exploit the animals, but to offer life-long refuge to those who were lucky enough to survive their cubhood with abusers like Joe Exotic, only to be sold to private owners who do not know how to properly care for them. We take in the survivors and give them a safe place to live out their lives. We open our facility to the public for guided tours, not to force our animals to entertain them, but to use our experience to educate people about the exotic pet trade and conservation efforts from a safe distance while allowing our animals to be the wild animals they were born to be.

We are also aware of who Carole Baskins is at Big Cat Rescue. We have worked with Big Cat Rescue in the past, as they are also a true sanctuary. We will continue to work with Big Cat Rescue because they are also working to put an end to the exotic pet trade. They are fellow members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and are also accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Although the docu-series focused on Carole Baskins’s past, we know the real marker of a true sanctuary is the willingness to adapt over time. Many sanctuaries got their start much like these roadside zoos in the 1990’s, with little funding or research on how to properly care for big cats. Back then, there was very little research on captive animals or how captivity and hands-on interaction was detrimental to their physical and mental health. As it became more popular to keep these dangerous wild animals in captivity, it quickly became apparent that it was not only dangerous for the humans but also damaging to the animals. Facilities, like Turpentine Creek and Big Cat Rescue, learned from this research and shifted our operational plan to no longer allow hands-on interaction, built bigger habitats, stopped taking animals off-site, adjusted how we fed the animals, incorporated better nutrition, created enrichment programs to help stimulate their minds, and hired educated individuals who went to college specifically to help these animals. We will continue to do so for as long as true sanctuaries like our own are needed. We will continue to do so until the day comes that true sanctuaries are no longer needed.

We encourage you to do your research before visiting any facility to make sure that they are not exploiting the animals and are providing them with safe, healthy environments. Thank you for being concerned about these beautiful animals and how they are cared for. We encourage all our supporters to visit our Advocacy page to learn how you can help put an end to the exploitation of big cats, end private ownership, and stop hands-on interaction with these magnificent animals. Learn more at www.tcwr.org/advocacy.

If you would like to learn more about what a true sanctuary is and how to tell one apart from a pseudo sanctuary you can visit our website at www.tcwr.org/sanctuary.

If you would like to learn more about why cub-petting is detrimental to the health of big cats please visit www.tcwr.org/cub-petting/.

If you would like to learn more about Zoonotic diseases (much like COVID-19) please visit www.tcwr.org/infectious-diseases/.

If you would like to learn about Ligers and Tigons, that psudo sanctuaries breed only for profit, go to www.tcwr.org/hybrid-species-ligers-and-tigons/.

If you would like to learn about white tigers and why they are not a separate subspecies and why they shouldn’t be bred in captivity you can at www.tcwr.org/what-are-white-tigers/.