EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30.
According to a press release, the refuge will host an in-person event that includes vendors, magic, music, food trucks, educational programs and more. Eureka Springs Mayor Butch Berry will give a special presentation on Saturday at noon. Tanya and Scott Smith, president and vice president, respectively, will be on hand to greet visitors and share the story of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is an exotic wildlife sanctuary federally licensed and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. This non-profit organization currently has more than 50 large natural habitat enclosures ranging in size from 5,000 to 20,000 sq. ft. in which more than 60 exotic and native cats, six black bears, one grizzly bear and a variety of other animals reside.
It has an on-site veterinary facility—officially the Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital—named for Tanya’s parents, Don and Hilda Jackson, who started the refuge. The Jacksons, along with daughter Tanya, established Turpentine Creek Foundation, Inc. in 1992 with a mission to provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused and neglected big cats with an emphasis on tigers, lions, leopards and cougars.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has provided sanctuary to more than 450 animals during its 30 years. There are currently fewer than 100 animals housed in large natural habitats on the 459-acre property. The refuge does not buy, sell, trade, loan out or breed animals.
Its animals generally come from private owners who have relinquished responsibility or are otherwise unable to care for them or in cases of abuse, neglect or public safety, are seized by law enforcement authorization. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the refuge is entirely dependent on donations and recurring donors to keep the animals fed and to provide medical care and housing. It is open to the public daily throughout the year, with the exception of Christmas Day, and offers an hourly open-air tram tour where guests learn about the individual animals, their stories and their care from knowledgeable staff and interns.
Lodging is also available in a variety of adult-only and family-friendly options. All proceeds from tours, lodging and gift shop sales support the care of the animals.
When asked about the early days and current challenges at the refuge, President Tanya says, “Things have changed. But then again, we still face the same challenges we did 30 years ago. We had hoped to see an end to big cat exploitation within our lifetime and we still believe that is possible. It’s just been amazing how big the need is. We had no idea when we started that there were so many animals out there in such extreme need. We started from humble beginnings and are so grateful for the outpouring of support from our local community.”
Sunday, May 1, is the refuge’s official anniversary date. There are several ticket options available and details can be found on their website for this weekend’s celebration: www.turpentinecreek.org/30thanniversaryevent.