A large-scale rescue is in its final stages as more than 30 big cats are relocated from a failing humane society to their new home near Eureka Springs.
72-year-old Betty Young, owner of the Riverglen Tiger Sanctuary, has been caring for big cats since the late 1980's. When her health began to decline, she reached out to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for help.
"Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is a refuge for abused and abandoned big cats," said Tanya Smith, founder and president of the refuge. "We specialize in large carnivores: lions, tigers, bears, things like that. So it's just natural we are here to help pick up the pieces from Ms. Young's facility."
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) operates on 459 acres and was caring for more than one hundred animals when they received the call from Young. Smith said in order to accommodate the animals, she would need some help.
By Smith's calculations, TCWR would need to raise $238,000 to rescue all of the big cats from Riverglen Tiger Sanctuary. "It's the biggest need we've ever had here."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare provided Smith with a $40,000 matching emergency grant to expand the refuge's accommodations.
Smith gives credit to her staff who she says has worked tirelessly the past four months to build the additional enclosures.
"None of this was here at the first of November, and that's all been built by us with just a little bit of extra labor," said Smith.
There are still five big cats remaining at Riverglen Tiger Sanctuary. Smith hopes to have them moved in to TCWR within a week.
TCWR began adopting animals in 1995. It is open to the public with tours offered daily.