Tiger King Star Carole Baskin To Close Big Cat Rescue And Move Wildlife To Arkansas Refuge

Baskin, who shot to fame in 2020 when her feud with Joe Exotic became a Netflix hit, has decided to close her Big Cat Rescue centre and transfer most of its wildlife from Florida to a sanctuary in Arkansas.

“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.”  

In a memo published on the sanctuary’s website, her husband, Howard Baskin, announced that the 30-year-old center in Tampa has agreed to move most of its cats to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

“We will continue to fund their care for the rest of their lives,” the statement said.

The Big Cat Rescue has provided a safe haven for exotic cats that people have abandoned, mistreated, or retired from performing since 1992. Locals and tourists alike have frequented the rescue, located at 12802 Easy Street.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rescue center closed its doors to the public and has not reopened to visitors.

 BCPSA Has Led To A Decrease In Tiger Rescues

The decision to close the center comes after the federal Big Cat Public Safety Act, or BCPSA, was passed, which prohibits cub petting and the private ownership of big cats, including Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs, Jaguars, Cougars, or any hybrid of these species.

Howard and Carole Baskin at their Big Cat Rescue sanctuary

“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,” read the statement.

“Having ended most of the abuse of big cats via the BCPSA, focusing on the third prong of our mission, i.e., maximizing 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.”

A financial liability

Moreover, mounting expenses have also placed considerable financial pressure on the estate.

According to the Baskins, currently the property’s overhead costs are $1.5 million per year, or over $36,000 per cat.

Carol Baskin, pictured in Tiger King, has announced her Florida property is closing, with 2023 expected to be ‘the most challenging financial year in the sanctuary’s history’.

“As the population declines, it becomes an increasingly inefficient use of donor funds per cat to operate a facility like ours,” Mr. Baskin explained.

“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.”  

He added: “Supporting our cats in larger enclosures at Turpentine Creek, at a 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.”

New home for the big cats

Turpentine’s founder and president, Tanya Smith, said that her organization and Big Cat Rescue “share similar ideologies and core values, so it seemed quite logical that Carole and Howard would approach us.”

According to Smith, the sanctuary has already taken measures to accommodate the incoming cats.

“In 2021, [Turpentine] launched a capital campaign initiative to build a visitor education center and museum,” Smith said.

“Part of that project includes a five-year plan to develop another 13 acres on our 459-acre property to provide additional habitats.

“We anticipate the construction will be completed within the next six months. This increased space will not only accommodate the remaining cats at Big Cat Rescue but some additional space for other rescue needs.”

The memo also mentioned that once all the cats at the sanctuary have been moved, the Hillsborough County sanctuary property will be sold, and the proceeds will be used to “fund these species-saving projects in the wild.”

Moreover, Big Cat Rescue will also help fund the building of the enclosures at Turpentine Creek, which “is expected to cost $1.8 million.”

Tiger King

Tiger King ‘star’ Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for hiring a hitman to kill Bastin.

Big Cat Rescue and Carole Baskin caught global attention three years ago when Netflix released its popular Tiger King docuseries.

As well as focusing on the illegal wildlife trade, the documentary followed Baskin’s feud with Joe Exotic, an eccentric zookeeper serving a 21-year sentence for hiring hitmen to kill her.

Exotic accused Baskin of murdering her ex-husband, Don Lewis, and feeding him to their Tigers

In the documentary, Exotic accused Baskin of murdering her ex-husband, Don Lewis, and feeding him to their Tigers. However, Baskin denies these accusations. Don Lewis disappeared without a trace in 1997, and authorities are still investigating his disappearance.



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