Eureka Springs, AR – Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge will reopen to the public
June 1, 2020, following a 10-week closure in the midst of COVID-19. But because of the ability for felines to contract the virus, TCWR is taking extra precautions as they open their doors to the public.
Masks will be required for everyone on the premises ages 3 and up. TCWR will provide masks for those who do not have their own. Regular tours will still be offered seven days a week, but only at 10 AM, 12 PM, and 2PM. Each tour will have a max of 60 people; those people will then be broken up into groups of ten. Guides will remain with groups for the entirety of the visit, including in the Discovery Area that is typically an on-your-own walk-through.
Walk-ins will still be welcome at the Refuge, but the only way to guarantee a spot on the desired tour is to reserve tickets ahead of time through a new ticketing system that will be launching on TCWR’s website next week. Those with a TCWR membership will need to call in order to reserve a tour spot.
There will be no riding tours until further notice. This includes exclusive tours, such as Coffee with a Curator and Carnivore Caravan. Those who wish to take a special, private tour can still do so virtually from the comfort of their own home by booking at tcwr.org/virtual-private-tours.
Lodging is open, and those who book before June 1 can still take a regular tour. TCWR is following the Arkansas State Health Department guidelines for the hospitality industry, resulting in a 24-hour unavailability between check-outs. Lodging guests will not be required to wear a mask in their room, or as long as they can social distance while in lodging, but will be required to wear one when they are within 12’ of the animal habitats or in the Gift Shop.
It should also be noted tigers, Tigger and Floyd, who can typically be viewed outside the Siberian and Bengal suites have been temporarily relocated to a different part of the Refuge for their health and safety. Lodging Reservations can be made at tcwr.org/stay-with-us/view-all.
TCWR asks that day-visitors and lodging guests postpone their trip if they have recently traveled to an area with high rates of COVID-19 or if they believe they have otherwise been exposed, even if they are asymptomatic. They also ask guests who aren’t feeling well to stay home.
Early on, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo contracted the novel coronavirus from an asymptomatic keeper, confirming that felines can get the illness. The virus quickly spread to the zoo’s other felines, despite efforts to contain it. Since TCWR’s closure to the public in March, extra efforts have been made to keep the Refuge’s animal residents safe, including a quarantine for all team members who live onsite and mask requirements for those on the premises.
In a Facebook post about their reopening, TCWR acknowledged the fact that tours will “look a little different” for the time being, but emphasized, “Our animal residents didn’t ask to be kept in captivity. They are only here because of the former actions of humans. They do not have a choice, and we owe it to them to do everything in our power to protect them. They depend on us to keep them safe.”
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge also extended gratitude for those who have supported them during their temporary closure, which was a financially-frightening decision for the nonprofit that is home to many dependent animals. “Because of our supporters, we are going to come through this pandemic smarter and more resilient, we can only survive with their continued support,” President Tanya Smith said. “As we enter the next phase, we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we evolve practices to keep our animal residents safe while still maintaining a positive guest experience.”
Those who wish to support TCWR’s 80+ animals but are unable to visit can do so at tcwr.org/donate.
About Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
Founded in 1992, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and rescue operation protecting survivors of the exotic animal trade. The 450-acre refuge, located 7 miles south of Eureka Springs, is also an ethical animal tourism destination and a “Top Ten” family friendly attraction in Northwest Arkansas. The organization does not buy, sell, trade, loan out or breed their animals, and they do not offer cub petting or harmful pay-for-play opportunities. They are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, a member of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, and licensed by the USDA and Arkansas Game and Fish. Their mission is to provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused, and neglected “Big Cats” with emphasis on Tigers, Lions, Leopards, and Cougars Additional Information, Photo and Video Sources.