'Tiger King' Cats Coming to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

'Tiger King' Cats Coming to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
(Arkansas Dept. of Parks & Tourism)

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge of Eureka Springs is accepting 35 exotic felines from Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, Fla., the animal sanctuary featured in the hit Netflix series "Tiger King."

In a post written by Howard Baskin, husband of the controversial "Tiger King" reality television star and big cat lover Carole Baskin, Big Cat Rescue announced it entered into an agreement with Turpentine Creek to move most of the Florida facility's cats to the northwest Arkansas refuge. Big Cat Rescue will continue to provide funding for the tigers, bobcats and lynx "for the rest of their lives," the blog post said. 

Big Cat Rescue will shift its focus to global efforts to protect the animals. Maintaining Big Cat Rescue in Florida has become too expensive, Howard Baskin wrote. "When we had 100 cats, that $1.5 million in [annual] overhead was $15,000 per cat," he said. "At 41 cats, it is over $36,000 per cat. As the population declines, it becomes an increasingly inefficient use of donor funds per cat to operate a facility like ours." 

Turpentine Creek said the facility had approached Big Cat Rescue "several months ago to begin the process of combining their remaining cats with ours," the refuge said in a newsletter. Efforts to adopt the exotic animals were solidified after the facility raised nearly $3 million in phase one of a three-year capital campaign. Turpentine is now in the second phase of raising $6.5 million. 

Funding would help build a Big Cat Education Center & Museum and to create more habitable spaces for big cats and other animals the refuge rescues. 

Founded in 1992, Turpentine Creek focuses predominantly on saving big cats, like tigers, lions, ligers, lynx or bobcats, from the exotic animal trade. It also rescues bears. Visitors can tour the facilities or book one of the refuge's "Zulu Safari Lodges" for an experience of "Africa in the Ozarks."