Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Opens Onsite Vet Hospital

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EUREKA SPRINGS (KFSM) -- Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is celebrating the opening of its new veterinary hospital that will allow them to treat their big cats onsite.

With more than 100 big cats, Turpentine Creek is one of the world`s largest big cat rescues that is open to the public.

Before the opening of their new vet clinic, the refuge had to transport their animals to a veterinarian almost an hour away and had to sedate the animals at least once. Now the veterinarian will come to the refuge.

Assistant Curator Laurie Vanderwal said having the hospital is something the refuge has dreamed of for 20 years.

"We have really thought about that a lot," Vanderwal said. "We have done our purchasing of the equipment and it is a little different because everything is on a much larger scale, but I think we have done a great job trying to get everything figured out and we are ready to go."

All of the equipment in the new clinic is state-of-the-art and portable.

"Our X-ray machine is setup not to just take the picture and then you have to pull the film out and get it developed, but it is all digital," Vanderwal said.  "As soon as the plate is under the animal, you take the picture and it will go directly to a laptop and you see what it looks like and if you need to adjust it under the animal, you don`t have to pull it out and put it back in."

The clinic is also equipped with cameras, so the refuge can do live feeds of surgeries.

"We will be able to communicate with other vets, students and things like that if we see something that we want to teach somebody else about," Vanderwal said. "Not everybody gets to see a tiger and having people come here is a little challenging, so this way we can broadcast it out to vet schools and clinics and other things like that for continuing education."

Building the clinic and buying all of the equipment cost the refuge almost $500,000, which they received through donations. The refuge still needs about $50,000 in donations to purchase more equipment.

The first surgery at the new vet hospital will take place Wednesday (Aug. 24) on a tiger named Izzy.