My name is Rocklyn, and I am a female white tiger born on the 10th of May, 2016. This is my story.
Along with my brother, Black Fire, and my sister, Peyton, I was pulled from my mother possibly within hours and no more than a few days after my birth. I was brought into a room where I was handed to strange people. They took turns holding me to take photos and passed me around. I was deprived of my mother’s milk, and as a result, I developed Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). When I was rescued, and x-rays were taken of me at five months old, I had a bi-lateral femur fracture healing and a fractured left humerus. I demonstrated aggressiveness if my hindquarters were touched, and I was unable to stand. My eyes were crusty, and I was infested with ringworms. My brother and sister were in as much pain and shared my condition.
Sadly, Rocklyn’s story is not unusual. Cub-petting schemes are highly profitable. So are swimming with cubs or any other kind of human and cub interaction scheme you may encounter. Different states have different laws, but those that allow cub interaction typically require the practice to cease once the cub is 25 pounds or larger or more than two months in age. It pays these facilities to keep their cubs underweight to maximize the time they can use them to collect revenue. Poor nutrition, lack of rest, and stress lead to weakened immune systems, placing these cubs at risk. Of even more significant concern, these cubs put the humans handling them at risk, as well. Rocklyn was diagnosed with a ringworm infestation when rescued, as were her siblings. Ringworm, a fungal infection, is zoonotic and can be passed to humans. Furthermore, due to the Metabolic Bone Disease, the trios pelvises are deformed and too small to pass bones without complications. Rocklyn and her siblings will require a special boneless diet for the rest of their lives.
When a disreputable breeder offers cub petting and selfies with cubs, guests rarely consider the ultimate fate of the cub. Few ask where did this cub come from or where will it go? The truth is these facilities are speed breeding the parents. When cubs are pulled from a mother tiger or lion, she will go back into estrus, allowing the cycle to repeat. Gestation for a lion or tiger is between 93 and 112 days. That means a facility may get as many as two (2) litters from one pair per year. A litter can be as small as one (1) cub, or as many as three (3), though there are exceptions. Meanwhile, the mother is not given time after delivering to recover and rebuild her strength. She is continually having to fuel the production of new lives.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit 501c(3) sanctuary located in Eureka Springs, whose mission is to provide lifetime refuge for abandoned, abused, and neglected big cats, rescued Rocklyn, Peyton, Black Fire, and 112 other big cats in September of 2016. Mama Shakira and Boscoe, the parents of the trio, and two other siblings, Tanya and Kizmin, have found a better future and life than they could have hoped for before their rescue. Cubs like the trio, unable to walk and no longer at a size where they could interact with the public, would most likely have faced euthanization. Large cats have large appetites, and once they stop being lucrative for these facilities, they become a massive financial liability, eating as much as ten to fifteen pounds of meat per day. These cubs have flooded the back yards of America as privately owned exotic pets. We’ve even seen them on our news recently in cities like Houston. This is a very real, and a very big, problem in our country.
There are no federal laws concerning ownership of exotic animals. This has instead been left up to the individual State’s to dictate. Thirty-five states ban keeping big cats as pets with varying exemptions and enforcement. (You can find a map here.) Four states have no laws, and six do not ban or regulate. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263/S.1210) introduces federal legislation to make it illegal to handle a cub. With the financial windfall from cub-petting schemes eliminated, the need to produce the cubs also ends.
There are many ways you can help. Contact your state representative and senator and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge has information on its Advocacy page to help you with this process that will take less than five minutes. Research any facility you plan to visit and look for accreditation or certification. Ideally, a sanctuary should be accredited through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS).
Rocklyn’s story has a happy ending thanks to the hard work of the team at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. With proper nutrition and medical care, the trio overcame their rough start. They still have noticeable limps and will always have health issues. Since their arrival, they have participated in a pain management program and will continue throughout the remainder of their life. Today Rocklyn shares a spacious, grassy habitat with her brother and sister. The Refuge installed a new inground water feature for the trio this summer. It’s much easier to enjoy than the stock tank they had previously. All three can be seen having a good time pouncing into their new pool and playing together.
Would you please donate today to help Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge care for the big cats and bears they’ve rescued from horrendous conditions like Rocklyn’s? You can also visit the Refuge and take an educational guided tour to learn the stories of all the residents. They are open every day of the year except Christmas. Visit their website to learn more at www.tcwr.org.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
239 Turpentine Creek Lane
Eureka Springs, Arkansas 72632