Turpentine Creek Turns 31!

Did you know that Turpentine Creek’s birthday is coming up? Our 31st-anniversary celebration, called Feast with the Beasts, will be […]

Did you know that Turpentine Creek’s birthday is coming up? Our 31st-anniversary celebration, called Feast with the Beasts, will be on April 29th! With so much excitement for the refuge’s future, it’s also important that we take the time to remember our beginning as well!

Our Beginning

We rescued our first big cat in 1978, who was an 8-month-old lion cub named Bum. Bum was abandoned and chained to a Sweet Gum Tree in a hotel parking lot in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was found by one of our founder’s friends, who realized he did not want to take care of a lion cub. Our founders Hilda and Don Jackson, and Tanya Smith took in Bum. Four years later, the Jackson family took in another lion cub, a female named Sheila.


Bum the lion cub


In late 1991, a well known exotic cat breeder named Catherine Gorden Twiss brought 3 cattle trailers full of cats to the Jackson family residence in Hope, Arkansas. Twiss was fleeing law enforcement, and trying to find a home for 42 of her cats. With a large new population to care for, the Jacksons moved to a ranch south of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Eventually, Twiss was arrested, abandoning even more cats and horses for the Jacksons to rescue. After news of Twiss’ cats spread, Turpentine Creek began receiving even more rescue calls. This was the turning point for the Jacksons, who decided to focus solely on providing forever homes for these cats!

Our Recent History

In the years since TCWR was founded, we have been a part of multiple large-scale rescues. In 2002 we received a call from a man in Quitman, Arkansas. This man asked if it was legal to euthanize the big cats he had living on his property. He no longer wanted to care for them, and we were able to rehome 21 of these big cats. Over a span of 5 months in 2012 and 2013, TCWR staff made 15 trips to a run-down facility in Mountainburg, Arkansas to rescue 27 tigers and 1 cougar. In 2016, we helped facilitate the largest big cat rescue in United States history! We were able to rescue 115 animals from a facility in Colorado, and brought 34 of those animals here to Turpentine Creek.


White tiger cubs Rocklyn, Peyton and Blackfire at their previous facility in Colorado



The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) granted Turpentine Creek a verified status in 2014, and in 2016 we received a full accreditation. GFAS-accredited facilities are held to very high standards in all aspects of sanctuaries, such as animal welfare, staffing, and safety. 

Our Future

In the next year, we are very excited to be expanding our facility with our new area, called Freedom Field. We also will be receiving roughly 30 cats from Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Tampa, Florida. BCR is shifting their focus from rescuing captive animals, towards conserving these species out in their natural habitats. 


We are very excited for the future here at TCWR, and hope you will continue to support us for years to come!

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