Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Big Cats!

OK, OK, I know I promised I would post at least once a week, and I haven't posted in about 10 days.  I have failed my own mission.  The good news is that I was posting more than once a week before that, so I'm ahead of things in sheer numbers of posts.  I also have no idea why I'm apologizing to the four people who read this thing, but I think I'm actually apologizing to myself for failing in my promise.

I'm over it, lets move on.  Recently, Doug and I visited the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Or, as we like to call it, "Big CATS!"  It's really impossible to describe the way that we say it in a written blog.  It's kind of a blurry, snarly way.

We got a Groupon-like coupon for the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a two-for-one kind of gig.  Considering we were planning to go eventually, it seemed like a good deal.  Then....we got married, got busy with other things and simply forgot about driving the 45 minutes to see a bunch of tigers.  Well, also we didn't want to walk around a wildlife refuge in the crazy Arkansas heat.  So, thankfully the day before the coupon expired, the weather cooled down and we decided to make those big cats our bitches.

When we arrived, we visited the restroom outside of the refuge area.  Normally I wouldn't blog about a restroom visit, but this one was notable because as I headed into the womens room and Doug into the mens room, I heard loud singing coming from the mens room.  Turns out the mens room had showers, and there were a couple of dudes showering in the random bathroom near the Tiger Camp (which is what I will refer to this place as from now on).

Inside Tiger Camp, there were two main areas.  First was what they called "the compound" which was a fairly small concrete area with a bunch of separate cages.  Sort of like a zoo.  There were about a dozen tigers, some other big cats (lions, jaguars, bobcats), a monkey, and a super cute bear.  I really liked the bear.  It was a big ole brown bear, cute as could be.  It was in pacing mode, just walking back and forth around its cage.

The second main area of Tiger Camp was the "habitat" areas, where the big kitties have access to grassy roaming areas.  Typically each habitat was shared with another cat, where each has an "on day" and an "off day."  During the "on day" the cat gets to roam around the habitat, and on the off day the cat goes into an adjacent cage and the habitat is habitated by a buddy.  A buddy that is too dangerous and/or bitchy to share on the same day.  Me thinks tigers didn't do so well in kindergarten.

One major thing that I learned when going to Tiger Camp is something I should have recalled from many past zoo visits: big cats are really boring most of the time.  Tigers and lions just sit around most of the time in zoos, because they have no need to hunt, and they are often sequestered from other creatures.  They just sit around in the shade, sometimes licking themselves.  It's not super interesting.  I mean, it's cute:

But not so interesting.

Yet.  We deliberately arrived at Tiger Camp late in the afternoon, as we heard that feeding time was around 5pm. As it turned out, this was a wise plan, because the lions and tigers and bears (Oh my! [you must have been just waiting for me to say that]) all knew that feeding time was coming.  They were roaming around, salivating while waiting for the meat truck.  Or in this bear's case, the orange truck:

We also got to watch some interns throw fistfuls of frozen chicken (donated by Tyson) at some caged tigers, who then just went to town on those chicken tenders.  There were two rows of cages between me and the big cats, but I was still only three feet from a tiger at dinner time!

Mostly, we heard the stories about all the big cats who ended up at the refuge.  I had no idea how big the exotic pet trade is in this country, and how some states just don't have laws saying "It's not a good idea to buy a pet lion."  So when people try to raise big cats and it turns out badly (whether for the furniture of the owners or the health of the cats--apparently declawing tigers results in arthritis for them), Tiger Camp takes them in.  They bring in the cats, keep them in the "compound" until habitats can be built for them, and then transfer them to the shared habitats where they spend the rest of their days.  They try to keep the cats comfortable, healthy, and safe.  We saw a tiger with a missing ear middle ear bone, lots of tigers with arthritis, and even a three-legged tiger!  Was it the most scintillating few hours of my life?  Nope, but it certainly was worth the beautiful fall drive.

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