Bagheera and Selbit

Have you seen those habitats across from our wooden pavilion in the discovery area? They’re two medium sized enclosures, which […]

Have you seen those habitats across from our wooden pavilion in the discovery area? They’re two medium sized enclosures, which are home to Turpentine Creek’s leopard and jaguar. 


The one closer to the pavilion is home to Bagheera, our black jaguar! Bagheera (pronounced Buh-gear-uh) came to us as a result of the federal government’s request to assist with the seizure of animals from Tiger King Park Zoo. Months of silent preparation culminated in three days worth of boots-on-the-ground execution. During that time, a handful of TCWR team members were escorted by officers into the facility to assist with the mission. They then transported a number of the seized animals to additional accredited wildlife sanctuaries.

Reportedly, Bagheera was being kept with two female white lions at that facility who essentially bullied him during his time there. When Bagheera first got here, he was aggressive towards men and cameras. This reaction could’ve been the result of trauma from being used in cub petting. Over time, our team has been able to work with him and gain his trust. Now, Bagheera usually allows for our team to take pictures and approach the fence near him. Bagheera can often be seen taking a nap on his platform, sunbathing, hiding under his bench, or playing with toys. 


There’s an enclosure behind Bagheera’s, which is home to Selbit. Selbit is our yellow spotted leopard that came to us from Colorado. In 2016, the owner of a Colorado based cub petting and breeding operation was diagnosed with cancer, and could no longer run his business. Turpentine Creek acquired the 12-acre closed-down exhibition facility to enable our rescue of the 115 animals onsite. There, we found big cats suffering in cramped cages with flimsy plywood dens that were dangerously exposed to public areas. Onsite records showed very little history of veterinary care, but revealed that the owner had ties to Joe Exotic, and was breeding his big cats to supply other entities within the cub petting and entertainment industries. 

TWCR staff and interns spent six months both onsite caring for the animals, and in the relocation of every animal to accredited sanctuaries through the country. After many months and miles traveled, all animals were placed in forever homes for a second chance at life, and 34 of those animals came to Turpentine Creek. 

Poor Selbit is declawed on all four paws. Declawing these animals is essentially the same as humans taking off our fingers and toes at the first knuckle. He does suffer from arthritis as a result of his declawing, but don’t worry as he is still a very happy cat. He likes to spend a lot of his time lounging around, as making his way throughout the habitat is a little difficult with his arthritis. So being lazy is one of his favorite hobbies, but he also really enjoys ripping up cardboard into tiny pieces! 


So how do you tell the difference between a jaguar and a leopard? With Selbit and Bagheera it’s easy as one of them has melanism, which is what gives Bagheera his dark coloration. If he didn’t have melanism, he would look pretty similar to Selbit! Both jaguars and leopards can have yellow-ish colored or black fur, but only about 10% have that melanism. Typically, jaguars are stockier and slightly more muscular than leopards. There are also differences when it comes to their spots. Both leopards and jaguars have rosettes, but a jaguar’s rosettes have smaller spots within them, whereas a leopard’s do not. 


Come to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge today, and see if you can find Bagheera and Selbit hanging out!

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