EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A personality from the hit Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” will merge her big cat facility with a wildlife refuge located in Arkansas.

On March 27, Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue announced a merger with Turpentine Creek in Eureka Springs. According to the release, most of Baskin’s big cat population will move to The Natural State.

The win-win solution both for our captive cats and the cats in the wild is for us to merge our cat population with the population at another existing accredited sanctuary and devote the remaining resources of our sanctuary to the ‘in situ’ projects being conducted around the world to avoid extinction.

Howard Baskin, Big Cat Rescue, March 27

The release noted the significant cost involved with operating a big cat sanctuary, adding that it reduced its staff by 50% due to COVID-19.

“When we had 100 cats, that $1.5 million in overhead was $15,000 per cat,” the merger release said. “At 41 cats, it is over $36,000 per cat. As the population declines, it becomes an increasingly inefficient use of donor funds per cat to operate a facility like ours.”

It added that the need for big cat rescues is expected to decline over the coming decade due to the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act last year.

According to the release, Turpentine Creek, like Big Cat Rescue, is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which has the highest standards for animal care in the sanctuary field. 

“We have come to know Tanya and Scott Smith, who operate Turpentine Creek,” Baskin wrote. “They and their staff are closely aligned with us in philosophy and in principles of animal care and in recognizing the importance of advocacy to pass better laws. They were very active in helping pass the BCPSA.”

The Big Cat Rescue was founded 30 years ago and now occupies 67 acres of formerly rural land now surrounded by development. In contrast, Turpentine Creek sits on 450 acres “in an area where expansion even beyond that is possible.”

The release said that Turpentine Creek has fixed infrastructure in place to house 80 big cats and will build enclosures for approximately 30 more.

“Donor funds are used much more efficiently by consolidating the cats at Turpentine Creek,” Baskin added. The merger release said that the plan is to build out a 13-acre area that will include 22 new enclosures for small cats like bobcats and servals.

A diagram of the proposed new enclosures at Turpentine Creek

Two enclosures for medium size cats like leopards and jaguars are also planned, along with 15 for big cats like tigers that will average over 20,000 square feet each. Baskin noted that these are bigger than the ones available at Big Cat Rescue, which will provide a benefit to the animals.

Construction on the new enclosures has begun and is expected to take six months. More information about the merger is available here.