Saving Lives With Help From Our Friends

Rescuing Luna and Remington Took Teamwork

January 28, 2019

The magnitude of the Big Cat Trade can seem overwhelming at times. With the Trade’s network reaching corners that likely aren’t even on anyone’s radar yet and the vast number of “scam-suaries,” pay-to-play schemes, circuses, and roadside zoos outweighing the number of true sanctuaries and ethical organizations, we need all the help we can get in the fight for the future of big cats. Thankfully, these animals don’t have to rely on a single person or entity to be saved. They have supporters from all over the world banding together to stop the abuse, neglect, and exploitation they face. In the rescue of Luna and Remington, we were reminded that no matter how relentless the battle may seem, we do not have to go it alone.

Luna and Remington are two white tigers who have been waiting to come home to Turpentine Creek since 2016. Their road to freedom began with People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filing a lawsuit against Dade City Wild Things (DCWT) alleging the pay-to-play business violated the Endangered Species Act by warehousing tigers in small cages and prematurely separating cubs from their mothers. Dade City was known for its popular, “swim-with-the-tigers” attraction, which forced cubs to spend hours swimming with people past the point of exhaustion, chlorination stinging their sensitive eyes. Meanwhile, DCWT earned a nice profit.

DCWT illegally relocated the tigers to another shady operation in 2017 to avoid PETA’s court-ordered inspection of their facility, resulting in the deaths of 5 tigers, two of which named Rory and Raja, were supposed to be rescued by TCWR. The three other tigers that died were cubs who overheated at birth during transport as DCWT smuggled them to Oklahoma in an inadequately ventilated trailer. DCWT’s entire history with tigers was despicable, and as the court battle droned on and on, we sat waiting to be given the clear to swoop in and bring Luna and Remington home.

Since we do not have the legal authority to confiscate animals, another organization must make the first move. As we sat with our hands tied, PETA was battling it out in the courts with DCWT. Finally, in January of this year, we were able to make the drive to Florida to pick up our newest animal residents.

We knew to make the out-of-state trip would cost money and staff; not only was the drive long, but it was going to take multiple pairs of hands to safely execute the rescue. With a relatively small team taking care of our 90 plus animals back at the Refuge, being short even by a small amount of staff is sorely felt. Thankfully, we have a network of trusted wildlife warriors to reach out to in times of need. PETA covered the cost of transporting Luna and Remington from Florida (which also means all funds raised in their honor can go directly to their lifetime care) and through the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, we were able to connect with Forest Animal Rescue (FAR) in Florida, whose team members and volunteers selflessly offered their time at no cost to us in order to smoothly move Luna and Remington from their small cages at the rescue site to the transport trailer.

We have worked with our friends at FAR in the past. During the Colorado Rescue of 2016, which is a prime example of an undertaking that required teamwork from across the country, a portion of the 115 animals who were squeezed into the 12 acres of the pseudo-sanctuary/cub-petting operation found their forever homes with FAR. In fact, the Colorado Project, which required multiple reputable sanctuaries to come together in order to facilitate the largest exotic animal rescue in U.S. history, spurred the creation of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance. Members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance have come through for one another, multiple times since then to rescue animals and are continuously working together behind-the-scenes, making plans for the betterment of the future of big cats.

We were actually able to stop by and say “hello,” to yet another member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance, Big Cat Rescue (BCR). This organization also gave sanctuary to animals from the Colorado Rescue. In fact, we had the pleasure of seeing Priya the tiger, the mother of TCWR animal residents, Poncho and Montana, on our visit. With the horrors that meet our eyes when we are away from TCWR, our place of peace, during rescues, it’s refreshing to take a moment to visit facilities like BCR and FAR to revel in the wonderful work they are doing and exceptional care they are providing to survivors of the Big Cat Trade. It’s a positive reminder that TCWR is not in this fight alone.

Luna and Remington lost no time in discovering the joys of a large grass habitat at the Refuge. They are assaulting team members with an endless flood of “chuffs” and cheerful groans. Professionally-speaking, both are acting like complete goofballs: they roll on their backs and get distracted by a leaf-covered limb which spurs them to gnaw on it before realizing it tastes weird then getting distracted by the barrel lying across their habitat, the perfect unsuspecting prey, but on their way to take it down for the kill, they get distracted by a log and go to dig their claws in but halfway through that task, something else catches their eye and so on… It is hilarious and heartwarming because, for the first time, they are allowed to create their own schedule and choose what to do next and, well, they want to do everything! It’s as if they are reliving the cubhood they never got to have.

We want to thank PETA and FAR for working with us to give Remington and Luna the life they deserve. We also want to remind everyone to choose #EthicalTourism. FAR and BCR are the direct opposite of organizations like DCWT. You can find information on them and other BCSA-approved refuges at https://www.bigcatalliance.org/our-members/. Perhaps make it your goal to visit each one that is open to the public! 

Now we turn to you, our dear friends. Please help us feed our two new hungry mouths and provide all the toys they can get their child-like paws on. You can make a donation directly at tcwr.org/donate or be the first to adopt and sponsor Remington and Luna at tcwr.org/adoptions-sponsorship.