Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs brings home eight big cats

The four tigers and four lions belonged to former “Tiger King” associate
Published: Sep. 20, 2020 at 9:01 PM CDT
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EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KY3) - Eight big cats now have a new home in Eureka Springs after an Arkansas wildlife refugee took a rescue trip to a facility in Indiana that belonged to a former associate of the “Tiger King.”

Four tigers and four lions, rescued from Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed, Inc. in Charlestown, Indiana, belonged to Tim Stark, who worked with the notorious “Tiger King,” featured in the Netflix series of the same name.

The eight animals are now stepping on to grass for the first time. They were welcomed to a new home after being malnourished for quite a while.

“We were just so thrilled that we could be able to be assistance in this rescue because these animals did not deserve what they were receiving as care," Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge President Tanya Smith said.

Smith said many of the animals were living in cages far too small. While they were mostly in decent shape, she said some were thin, dehydrated and scared.

One of the lions is named Chief. He was frail and in the worst shape, Smith said.

“He needed veterinary care right away," she said. "We actually gave him some fluids to get him up, and one bag of fluids he got up, where when we got there he was in the fetal position.”

Smith also said the whole situation was clearly overwhelming for the male lion.

“He was so terrified because of all the people that had been in and out to take all the animals out of the facility,” she said.

Many of the animals had also been declawed.

“Animals need their claws, Smith said. “As they get older, we have problems when they’ve been declawed, arthritis and just having to walk back further on their joints. It’s just sad to watch these animals after they have been declawed.

Smith said her team was one of two refugees selected to rescue animals on Tim Stark’s property.

“He’s been in a lawsuit with PETA for a very long time. And PETA put up charges against him for animal cruelty and abuse.”

Smith also said more than 100 big cats were seized by the state of Indiana. An additional 22 were taken by Turpentine and the other sanctuary.

”We actually had SWAT with us, U.S. Marshals with us, the state police actually escorting us in and out," she said. “There were picketers out front, people that either volunteered at the sanctuary or that other facility.”

She said authorities are still looking for Stark after he has since left with a few animals. They are also hoping to make arrests.

Smith’s family has been involved with animal rescue since the late 1970s. Her group has participated in countless rescue efforts throughout the years.

“Since 1992 we have rescued more than 500 big cats,” she said. “When you think about that, that is so many animals that are out in places they shouldn’t be.”

She said she is excited that the animals will be able to live in grassy habitats in Eureka Springs with lots of care and attention.

Smith said she feels the Netflix series brought awareness to the issue of improper nourishment of large animals. She also hopes it will help get the Big Cat Safety Act passed through congress, which would prevent people from breeding and buying and selling big cats as pets.

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