Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lions & Tigers & Bears... oh my...

We have now come to my absolute favorite part of our trip down south. When we arrived on Wednesday night I was flipping through a magazine for Eureka Springs and I stumbled upon an advertisement for a big cat rescue center. I was hooked right then. I told Jess that I didn't care what else we did on the entire trip but wanted to visit the cats.

Unfortunately Jess wasn't all that jazzed about it so when I called and found out that it was $15 per person I figured that I was probably SOL. However, as it turns out she likes me... she really, really likes me, so when our shopping trip was kind of a bust she agreed to accompany me on the trip to Turpentine Creek.

As soon as we walked through the doors I was hooked. There were Lions:
And Tigers:
And even three bears:
(Sorry about the metal in all of the pictures but these are large, wild animals and so there were two layers of fences around everything to make sure no one got hurt.)

Oh, and before you think to your self, oh how cruel the animals are in cement cages, let me give you a little history on this place. This is a big cat rescue center, they advertise themselves as the biggest in the world. They are a 100% non-profit agency that takes on abused, neglected, unwanted animals as well as animals that the owners are no longer able to care for. Most of these animals were kept in conditions FAR worse than this and about 80% - 90% of them have never even seen grass. To them, where they are now is what they are used to, if not much better than what they are used to. However, as was told to us right away, the idea is not for them to stay there forever. The idea is to move them into habitats. But habitats cost money.

Ok... back to the story, when we arrived we were just in time to make the 3:00 walking tour. They took us out of the main area which they call the compound and into the back area where there are animals that have already had habitats built. They build the habitats on a first come basis and also on a money basis. It costs $15,000 - $20,000 to build a habitat that will hold anywhere from 1 - 3 cats depending on how well they get along. (The bears are getting their habitat next week because someone donated the money for them.)

As we walked around the back I learned more about big cats in one hour then I have in a life time of reading about them. In Iowa it is illegal to own a wild animal so it was never an option even though I always thought I wanted one.

It was easy to see how someone could be drawn in by the cuteness of a baby cub or even the majestic beauty of an older tiger.
But once they started talking about the stories of how they got some of the animals it quickly became clear that these are not house cats.
That ball, weighs 30 lbs.

Take for instance the story of one big cat who was the owners best friend. He took him to the ocean and they swam together and he fed him well and cared for him just like a family pet. Then one day while they were swimming he held the guys head under water just a tad too long. He did eventually let him up but the next day while playing the tiger showed him a new trick. That he could fit the guys whole head in his mouth. It was at that point that he realized that the tiger was a wild animal and even if it wasn't trying to hurt him a 700 lb kitty kitty was just a bit much to be in his home. (In the tigers defence if it hadn't been playing he would be dead.)

This tiger, was one of the lucky ones. There are several more there that were neglected or abused. Some of the breeders tell people that if they don't feed the cats meat and they have them declawed that will make them not be wild. That is not true. All that does is serve to deform their legs and make them malnourished.

Actually I could go on and on about what I learned but I will stop here. I put a ticker on my sidebar for them. They are not giving me any money but I really think it is a good cause so I'm willing to advertise for them. And when I win the lottery (Perhaps I need to buy a ticket first) this will be the first place I give my winnings.

Go to their site, snoop around a bit. I promise you won't be disappointed!!


Kbreints said...

What is the $90 options/buy on teh ticker? what do you buy?

Heather said...

That's what it costs to sponser a cat of that size. It's $100 for a big cat and then less for the smaller ones.

You can also, if you have lots of money to spare, "adopt" a cat. That is about $1,000 per year. Then they send you pictures, etc. I'm not sure if they send anything at the sponsorship level.

You can also go to their site and give less money or buy shirts, puzzles, postcards, etc.

Heather said...

Ok... here's what it says on their website:
You can 'have' your very own exotic animal by adopting or sponsoring any one of the many animals that call Turpentine Creek home.

Under the Adoption Program, we coordinate 20 individuals or families to jointly sponsor an animal. This program is fun and affordable.

Family Adoption Members receive a yearly membership pass to Turpentine Creek to visit with their 'new family member,' a numbered, laminated adoption certificate with the story and a current photograph of their adopted animal; and their name is added to the "Family Tree" for their animal which will become part of our "Adoption Forest" display.

Full Sponsorship Members receive a yearly membership pass, a high quality sponsorship certificate, and an 8x10 glossy photograph of their sponsored animal. All sponsors also have a second photo/certificate with their name displayed on our Sponsorship Wall.
It is actually $1,000 for a large animal but $2,000 for a large cat for the sponsorship.

Aunt Becky said...

I totally love the picture of the cat with the ball. It's cracking me up!

Anonymous said...

OK, just dyin' to know how you surprised Jake with the trip...did you get to spring it on him? Did he find out due to the stay in the hospital (because you needed to know if he could travel, I'm guessing)? I love surprise stories! Tell, tell!!!