Tanya Smith

Occupation: President, Co-Founder, 
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Eureka Springs

Tanya Smith is a proud mother to five humans which have blessed her with seven grandchildren. But she is also a mother to much more than most as the matriarch of more than 80 big cats at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR). She founded the enterprise with her parents in 1992, which now employs a staff consisting of more than 85 percent women. Smith also serves on a number of boards and is a member of multiple chambers of commerce in Northwest Arkansas.

Tanya Smith

Eureka Springs

Tanya Smith is a proud mother to five humans which have blessed her with seven grandchildren. But she is also a mother to much more than most as the matriarch of more than 80 big cats at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR). She founded the enterprise with her parents in 1992, which now employs a staff consisting of more than 85 percent women. Smith also serves on a number of boards and is a member of multiple chambers of commerce in Northwest Arkansas.

ATTRACTION TO CAREER:

I have always loved animals. My parents rescued an African lion when I was 10 years old. A car dealer friend of theirs went to repossess a car in Little Rock; the car and owner were gone but there was a lion cub tied to a cinder block. He took the cub, left his card and ended up trading what was owed on the car for the cub. My father saw the lion wasn’t getting the care he needed and traded five motorcycles and a trailer for it.

BEST PART OF YOUR DAY:

Hearing the caroling or roaring of the 80 plus big cats that reside at TCWR.

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:

TCWR started an innovative college graduate intern program in 1996 and has trained more than 500 biologists and zoologists now employed at zoos, sanctuaries and veterinary clinics around the world.

FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB:

My favorite part of my job is to rescue. I have seen so many animals that were living in filth — backyards, basements, closets, used and abused for profit under the cub petting guise — only to be discarded when they get too big to be safe around the public at about four months old. I love being part of a team and watching the change in the animals’ behavior (that were so abused) learn to trust our team once they arrive here.

REMEMBER ME FOR:

A life of dedication to our mission at TCWR and my love for humans and animals.

ATTRACTION TO CAREER:

I have always loved animals. My parents rescued an African lion when I was 10 years old. A car dealer friend of theirs went to repossess a car in Little Rock; the car and owner were gone but there was a lion cub tied to a cinder block. He took the cub, left his card and ended up trading what was owed on the car for the cub. My father saw the lion wasn’t getting the care he needed and traded five motorcycles and a trailer for it.

BEST PART OF YOUR DAY:

Hearing the caroling or roaring of the 80 plus big cats that reside at TCWR.

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:

TCWR started an innovative college graduate intern program in 1996 and has trained more than 500 biologists and zoologists now employed at zoos, sanctuaries and veterinary clinics around the world.

FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB:

My favorite part of my job is to rescue. I have seen so many animals that were living in filth — backyards, basements, closets, used and abused for profit under the cub petting guise — only to be discarded when they get too big to be safe around the public at about four months old. I love being part of a team and watching the change in the animals’ behavior (that were so abused) learn to trust our team once they arrive here.

REMEMBER ME FOR:

A life of dedication to our mission at TCWR and my love for humans and animals.

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