Breaking News
More () »

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge helps federal government rescue big cats from Joe Exotic's former park

Almost 70 big cats were rescued who were once owned by Joe Exotic.

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — Almost 70 big cats were rescued who were once owned by Joe Exotic, who is now behind bars. 

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge helped the federal government rescue the animals from Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma. 

Jeff and Lauren Lowe own the park and big cats. A federal judge ordered the couple to surrender all cubs under one year old and their mothers back in January. The judge says they likely violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.  

“You know that’s probably the most exciting thing about this rescue. It’s not just the rescue of these current animals. It’s knowing that there won’t be perpetual cubs being born that will have to face this abuse in the future. That’s very important for us,” Tanya Smith said.  

The president and founder of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Tanya Smith, says at Tiger King Park, the cubs were likely being used for cub petting, which means the cubs are pulled from their mothers when they are first born and are used for cub petting until they are about four months old. Smith says if the animal doesn’t go into a breeding population, it becomes surplus property. 

“With surplus property at 4 months old, when we have big cats that live to be over 20 years old, that’s a long time for a big liability of an endangered species or an animal like what we care for daily,” she said.  

Of those 68 big cats rescued, 10 of those cats are at the refuge being cared for, and since they’ve been here, one cat had three cubs. Since it is an ongoing case, they can’t talk specifics about the cat’s conditions, but they are all under a vet's care. Smith says Turpentine Creek is working with lawmakers on a federal bill to help protect endangered big cats. It’s called the ‘Big Cat and Public Safety Act.'

“It would grandfather anybody that has animals into a program where they don’t have to get rid of their animals. They just can’t breed any more of these animals. It would also stop the cub petting industry where these animals are exploited as young cubs and then end up in different roadside zoos around the country,” she said.  

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary and a non-profit. They encourage everyone to come and visit to get educated on the difference between a sanctuary and places like Tiger King Park.  

RELATED: Fight cancer like a tiger: Northwest Arkansas tiger recovering after 2020 battle

RELATED: Arkansas refuge rescuing mistreated cats from Indiana zoo

Before You Leave, Check This Out