One Resilient Lady: After years alone, lioness welcomed to Turpentine Creek

One Resilient Lady: After years alone, lioness welcomed to Turpentine Creek
MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com

Eureka Springs has a new “Lady” in town.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs was recently part of a rescue of three tigers and one lioness, later named Lady after a generous patron of the refuge took an interest in her. Emily McCormack, animal curator at Turpentine Creek, estimates that the lioness had been living in a dilapidated barn for at least seven years, “at least the last four she was totally isolated — no other animals around. So that’s really got to be a horrible thing for such a social animal like a lion,” she adds.

“I don’t even know how a human could have lived in that isolation for that many years,” McCormack says. “There was just a row of — I’ll call them cubicle cages … at some point that barn was full of animals just next to each other in these tiny cages. Whether she witnessed them all passing away or [if] they were moved away, we have no idea. We were told that some carcasses were found throughout the property.”

Rescuers say that a Good Samaritan was feeding and watering Lady and three other tigers, but the animals were living in filth.

“The closed roadside facility that abandoned these cats was Safari Joe’s in Adair, Okla. He did have ties back to Joe Exotic,” explains Cheryl King, marketing director for TCWR, but they did not come from the Tiger King park. She says that the tigers went to the accredited Oakland Zoo and Lions Tigers and Bears Animal Sanctuary in Alpine, Calif. They brought Lady to Arkansas to spare the older lioness a journey to California.

Lady, a lioness rescued after isolation and abandonment in a roadside “zoo” in Oklahoma, enjoys her new habitat at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge near Eureka Springs. The other rescued cats went to facilities in California. (Courtesy Photo)

After sedating her and doing a quick on-site examination during the rescue, staff found that the lioness was infested with hookworms, but “she took her treatment great,” McCormack says. They also noticed that she has arthritis.

Since she’s an older cat — McCormack estimates around 16 to 18 years old — they don’t want to sedate her for a full exam just yet to access any other issues she may have.

“She is showing that she’s in about stage three of kidney disease, we can see that in the blood work. When we do that full exam, we’ll be taking X-rays of her limbs and our veterinarian, Dr. Kellyn Sweeley, will check all those limbs for mobility, and decide if she needs to be put on to our pain management program to help with any arthritic discomfort that she may have.”

Right now “we’re just giving her time to adjust. You have to let them mentally adjust to the surroundings, but also to the people,” McCormack says. “She’s got all these new surroundings, and of course we are cleaning enclosures every single day, scrubbing and sanitizing water bowls. So it was it’s a lot for her to adjust to what we normally do with all rescues.”

In her first week, Lady didn’t want to venture outside her den and was fearful of the people at the refuge. “We gave her food in front of the den just to entice her out.” Within days, she began to recognize the food truck. “Now she’s waiting there for her food and eating everything. It was only, gosh, less than a week, she was out exploring in the habitat, which was just fabulous to see.”

These days, “she’s out, chilling in the grass, laying in the shade under a tree… She was flirting with the tiger next door,” McCormack laughs. “She’s definitely liking the social atmosphere.”

McCormack thinks it’s just a matter of time before Lady finds her voice.

“We have not heard her carol yet with all of our other lions — they carol all times of the day. That’s typical of any lion that’s rescued. I think that they have to find their place, if you will, within the group and get in there talking with all the rest of them. I’m sure we’ll hear her soon.”

“I’m actually really shocked and pleased. She’s adjusted way faster than a lot of other cats that we’ve seen come in. Really overcame fear. She just seems at peace.”

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