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Big Cat Refuge in Eureka Springs Struggles to Make Room for 34 New Animals

This tiger is one of over 100 big cats that roam the grounds of the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs,
This tiger is one of over 100 big cats that roam the grounds of the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs,

The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, which houses over 100 lions, tigers and other big cats in Eureka Springs, is struggling to make room for 34 more big cats.  As KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson reports, it’s the largest rescue effort in the organization’s 20 year history.

Turpentine Creek’s founder, Tanya Smith, says 30 tigers, two leopards, and two cougars were under the care of one elderly woman in rural Mountainburg, Arkansas.  That woman’s health declined, leaving her unable to tend to the big cats.

Smith says she visited the woman’s private refuge, and found that the cats were healthy and well fed, even though their cages were severely dilapidated.

“We rearranged our population of animals to make room for seven of her cats. That’s all we could take. So, we were able to do that, and we immediately took in the seven cats, knowing that the weather was going to start getting bad. We came here, and just started like crazy fundraising and building these big areas for these animals so we could get them out of that situation,” Smith said.

Two tigers and two leopards, Smith said, went to another facility in Kansas. As for the rest of the big cats, she says she’s planning on rescuing them at Turpentine.

But that’s been a huge financial challenge, especially since this was an unexpected cost. Smith says she’s just doubled the number of qualified interns working at her refuge from nine to 18, and she’s arranging to bring in trailers for the interns to stay in. Turpentine is also scrambling to build new quarters for the big cats to roam about in, and it will need to buy food and health supplies for the new animals.

To see pictures of the big cats coming in from the rescue operation, you can click here. You can also visit the refuge’s website by clicking here.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Davidson.

Before this operation, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs was already home to over 100 big cats. On Friday (1/18), two more tigers and one cougar will make the move from the dilapidated refuge in Mountainburg to the Turpentine Creek refuge.