The Oklahoma Six

TCWR Saves Six Tigers

January 24, 2019

Last week, seven team members from Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge made the 712-mile round trip to pick up six tigers from a closing facility in Oklahoma. The owner of the facility had lost his lease on the property after being harassed by a group of individuals. He reached out to Turpentine Creek on Monday, and by Wednesday we were on the road to rescue.

All six tigers had once been part of the cub petting pay-to-play scheme and were scheduled to be euthanized after they could no longer make a profit. The owner of the facility rescued them from that fate, but since he was losing the lease on his land, he needed to find them a new home. Their ages range from 16-months-old to 4-years-old.

All six tigers were located in two enclosures on the property; the youngest two, Floyd and Tigger, living in one habitat and the other four, Robbie, Frankie, Tommy, and Diesel, residing in the other. It was quickly evident that all of the tigers were overweight but one, Diesel, was seriously ill. Three of the tigers quickly loaded into their transport cages, but the other three (Robbie, Frankie, and Diesel) needed to be sedated.

It took nearly six hours (from 8 am until 1:45 pm) to load up the six cats; Diesel was last. He was lethargic and barely moved the entire time we were rounding up his friends. Once we had him sedated, we took blood so that we could figure out what was causing his illness as quickly as possible.

Seven hours later, the team arrived back at the Refuge. Our Veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, met us and immediately checked over the newest TCWR residents. She then took the blood to the vet hospital to run it and find out what was happening with Diesel.

The following morning, Floyd, Tigger, Robbie, Frankie, and Tommie were let into their new habitats, while Diesel was taken to a recovery enclosure at the vet hospital. Dr. Kellyn found that Diesel had an elevated white blood cell count and an extremely low red blood cell count. She also saw signs of a tick-borne blood pathogen. She prescribed antibiotics and steroids to help Diesel battle his illness.

Over the weekend, the team kept a very close eye on Diesel’s progress. By Monday, Diesel had begun to move around more, sitting up and chuffing softly to the animal care team. We had hope that the beautiful orange tiger was on the road to recovery. Sadly, when we sedated him to test his blood again and check on the progress, the test revealed that instead of improving, his white blood cell count had risen further and his red blood cell count had dropped to dangerous levels. After discussing options, our vet advised that it was time to end Diesel’s suffering and let him pass on.

Robbie, Tommie, and Frankie quickly begun to settle into their new life at the Refuge. They live in a newly rebuilt habitat at the end of the tour loop. The three were also put on a diet to help reduce their weight.

Tigger quickly adjusted to his new habitat, next to the Siberian Suite and Tree House, but his roommate, Floyd, is still settling in and only comes out for short periods of time before returning to his den. We are watching Floyd closely since he had previously been diagnosed with severe metabolic bone disease.

Once the weather warms up, we plan to sedate all five tigers and give them a thorough examination along with blood tests to make sure that they do not also have the blood pathogen that Diesel died from. Since big cats cannot regulate their body temperature when sedated, it is very dangerous to sedate them when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Until we can examine them, we are watching them all closely for symptoms of the blood pathogen.

Although we try very hard, the reality is that we cannot always arrive in time to save everyone. We were too late to save Diesel’s life. So many animals are not reached in time and fall victim to the heartless Exotic Pet Trade and Cub Petting industries. This is why we educate and advocate to protect big cats. Please be the voice for the voiceless. It is up to YOU to put an end to the Exotic Pet Trade, reach out to your congressmen and tell them that this has to END. Support true sanctuaries, donate to help us continue to help them. The fight isn’t over yet, continue to fight, in memory of Diesel and all the other victims of Cub Petting. Please donate today to help us care for these five new rescues as well as all the other animals that call the Refuge home.