|RTS Final Visit Mountainburg, AR – 3/8/2013||Austin & Duke – Tigers Mountainburg, AR – 11/12/2012|
|India & Chopper – Tigers Mountainburg, AR – 11/5/2012||RTS Assesment Visit Mountainburg, AR – 11/1/2012|
|Lil’ Miss Priss – Bobcat Searcy, AR – 7/7/2012||Betsy – Black Bear Omaha, AR – 7/3/2012|
|Thor – African Lion King George, VA – 1/29/2012|
The Boone County Rescue
On May 14, 1996, the Boone County, Ark. Sheriff’s Department asked Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to assist in what would be found to be a severe case of neglect. When TCWR staff reached the cats they found a total of ten cats. 4 of the tigers, two leopards, and a lion were crammed into a twenty-foot horse trailer. One of the tigers and a leopard were locked in the trailer’s overhead compartment. Located in the very back was a female tiger with two cubs, and in the middle with the divider left open was the lion and the other leopard. The final two tigers were found in 6×6 foot cages next to the trailer, and a cougar in a 2×4 cargo drum. The floors of all the cages were covered in excrement, and judging by the buildup of waste, the cats had been in these small units for an estimated three weeks.
Starvation was painfully evident, with all of the cats dangerously thin. Tragically, one of the leopards, Freckles, had died of starvation just hours before TCWR’s arrival. On his side was a spot of skin where the fur had been licked away. Presumably, Toby, the lion, was attempting to revive Freckles by licking him.
The Quitman Rescue
In 2002, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was called to Safari Park in Quitman, Arkansas. The owner of the facility reported that the big cat population he was breeding to sell as pets, had grown too large for him to care for. In an attempt to lighten his burden, he asked TCWR to rescue 6 of the 66 cats on the property.
After returning to TCWR with 7 tigers: Jerry, Haley, Whitney, Roulon, Tammy, and Garth, each tiger was given almost 40 lbs of meat that first night. Their food aggression made it evident that their meals had been sparse.
A few short weeks after these six tigers were rescued, Turpentine Creek staff were made aware of the disturbing news of the Quitman facility. A local newspaper had reported that four lions from Safari Park had broken out of their caging and mauled a camel. All four were subsequently shot and killed. Immediately reaching out to the owner, TCWR staff were astonished when he indicated that he would likely euthanize the remaining big cats. Unwilling to let 56 magnificent cats be killed, the task of relocation began.
A total of 21 cats found a home at the Refuge: Jerry, Roulon, Haley, Whitney, Tammy, Garth, Tasha, TJ, Lucci, Wyoming, Livingston, JJ, Reese, Titan, CJ, Cessna, Clancy, Lana, Greg, Boris, and Thunder. The remaining cats were at Tiger Haven, a sanctuary in Tennessee.
All the Quitman cats were put on a strict regimen of vitamins, including taurine and calcium for bone development. The healthy diet, immediate medical care, and unending compassion proved to be what these cats needed, and with time the cats recovered from their neglect.
The Branson Rescue
In December of 2009, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge received an email from the Interactive Zoo and Aquarium (formerly known as Predator World) a roadside zoo in Branson West, Missouri. Facing stricter regulations for habitat enclosures, the owner of the zoo asked TCWR to assume responsibility for 9 animals: 7 big cats, a bear, and a coatimundi.
Not long after receiving the email, TCWR staff members went to the facility to form the best plan in order to move all of the animals safely. The weather played a significant role in this rescue as the location of the animals made it necessary to anesthetize them and then physically carry them to the rescue trailers –if the weather had been too warm it would not have been safe to use the sedatives. Fortunately, the weather worked in TCWR’s favor and we were able to move the animals quickly and efficiently. Upon their arrival to the Refuge, the male cats were fixed to avoid any further breeding and everyone was given a general check-up and any additional veterinary care deemed necessary was provided at this time. It did not take long for all nine of them to make themselves at home as they were quickly absorbed into the Refuge family.
The Mountainburg Rescue
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was asked by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office to help them peacefully orchestrate the relocation of 34 big cats. The owner was a 72-year-old with failing health. She had been hoping to be able to care for all of her cats for the remainder of their lives, but as her health began to diminish it became apparent that she would be unable to do so.
Between November 2012 and March 2013, TCWR staff made about 15 trips to the dilapidated facility to rescue 27 tigers and one cougar. Over the course of 128 days, TCWR staff built the area now known as Rescue Ridge – 20 habitats in a secluded area of the refuge, in order to accommodate all of the cats.
The Colorado Project
In late August of 2016, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was made aware of an opportunity to possibly rescue and/or rehome 115 animals from a zoological and animal exhibitor park in Colorado. The owner, who had opened the park in 1993, could no longer be responsible for the many animals due to a cancer diagnosis, and therefore TCWR, with the help of Tigers in America (TIA), began negotiations with the zoo.
As a rescue organization, TCWR bears the ethical responsibility of protecting — within the confines of federal and state laws — the survivors of the exotic pet trade. Not only does this include animals that are living in neighborhood backyards, but also animals coming from the entertainment industry and struggling privately owned zoos. With only 12 acres housing the 115 animals, the zoo faced many spacing issues. Unfortunately, the issue with space was only exasperated by the fact that they were breeding the animals. The zoo was breeding specifically in order to operate a financially lucrative cub petting or pay-to-play program. These programs, while monetarily enticing, have serious consequences for the animals and therefore TCWR does not condone the practice.
An important part protecting these animals lies in the educating the public about why the exotic pet trade is so harmful. Therefore, after visiting the facility and discussing purchase options with the owners and our own Board of Directors, our team developed a plan to move forward with acquiring the Colorado zoo and its assets, with the understanding that the animals would be donated to TCWR.
The former owner had been grandfathered into new laws dictating, among other things, how habitats should be built and therefore, was not upheld to the same regulations as newer zoos in Colorado, let alone to TCWR’s own safety and animal welfare standards. As the new owners, the grandfather clause did not apply to us, and because of our ethical responsibilities to the welfare of the animals, it became evident that we would be unable to leave the animals on the property without seriously depleting our resources in an attempt to rebuild.
6 months later, all 115 animals were successfully rehomed. TCWR brought 32 animals to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the remaining animals found a home at 14 other reputable sanctuaries across the nation. It has been a long process and it is not done yet, but we are thrilled to say that all of the animals are being well taken care of and are enjoying their new spacious forever homes.