‘Tiger King’ Star Carole Baskin Closing Down Big Cat Sanctuary

Bao Zhang
By Bao Zhang
April 4, 2023US News
‘Tiger King’ Star Carole Baskin Closing Down Big Cat Sanctuary
A pair of the 39 tigers rescued in 2017 from Joe Exotic's G.W. Exotic Animal Park relax at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo. on April 5, 2020. Exotic, star of the wildly successful Netflix docu-series Tiger King, is currently in prison for a murder-for-hire plot and surrendered some of his animals to the Wild Animal Sanctuary. The Sanctuary cares for some 550 animals on two expansive reserves in Colorado. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Tiger King star Carole Baskin has announced that she is closing down her Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Florida. In a memo, her husband, Howard Baskin, revealed that the cats would be moved to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.

“Big Cat Rescue has entered into an agreement with Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, an accredited sanctuary in Arkansas, to move most of Big Cat Rescue’s cats to Turpentine Creek where we will continue to fund their care for the rest of their lives,” read the memo on the Big Cat Rescue website.

The proceeds of the sanctuary’s sale will fund species-saving projects in the wild, the memo said.

“Supporting our cats in larger enclosures at Turpentine Creek, at much lower cost per cat than we incur by continuing to operate Big Cat Rescue, will free up resources to let us do much more to save big cats in the wild,” it read.

“Having ended most of the abuse of big cats via the [Big Cat Public Safety Act], focusing on the third prong of our mission, i.e., maximising the amount we can donate to in situ projects to save the cats from extinction, is the best way to fulfill our mission and impact the most cats going forward.”

Big Cats, Big Costs

Howard Baskin stated that high maintenance costs had placed considerable financial pressure on the Big Cat Rescue estate, with costs reaching up to $1.5 million a year or $36,000 per cat. The building of new enclosures at Turpentine Creek is expected to cost $1.8 million.

“The only practical way for us to make this work is for Big Cat Rescue to fund building the enclosures at Turpentine Creek that will house our cats. That is expected to cost $1.8 million. At the same time that we are funding that construction, we have to fund the normal expenses of operating the sanctuary,” he said.

In 2021, U.S. Congress passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) bill that banned unlicensed individuals from owning wild animals.

“With the passage of the BCPSA we expect the need for rescues to decline over the coming decade. If the need were going to continue at the pace we saw up until a few years ago, we would be making a different decision,” the memo read.

The ages of the Baskins was also taken into account as Howard mentioned that it was “time to be thinking about a transition to younger management to bring new energy to the organization to allow the sanctuary to continue into perpetuity”

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge announced on its Facebook page that it “will be taking in 35 cats from Big Cat Rescue as part of our expansion plan, building a sustainable future for animal rescue.”

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