Emily McCormack’s lifelong commitment to saving tigers

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Emily McCormack—the Animal Curator at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR), a sanctuary in Eureka Springs, Arkansas housing 94 animals (mostly big cats, plus bears)—recalls, in a “Talking Animals” interview,  being infatuated with tigers since childhood, telling her parents at age 10 or 12 that she intended to save them.

Sure enough: Half of TCWR’s 84 big cats are tigers. Over its 30-year existence, the sanctuary has assisted various law enforcement agencies in rescuing over 500 animals nationwide, providing them lifelong care. McCormack has worked there nearly 25 years; she’s helped save a huge number of tigers, earning a degree in zoology, and landing an internship at TCWR—where she’s been ever since—fulfilling her childhood pledge. (She now oversees the TCWR internship program.)

She delivers something of an overview of TCWR, dovetailing with her answering my inquiry about the hallmarks of a legit sanctuary (starting with accreditation) in a section of the conversation noting there is no shortage of nefarious facilities that exhibit big cats and offer its patrons other opportunities, like cub petting—as depicted in “Tiger King” and other less-notorious programming—so-called “pseudo-sanctuaries.”

McCormack describes some of the tours and other educational programs TCWR offers, as well as onsite lodging, noting the tremendous, ongoing costs involved in operating such a facility, and the importance of generating revenue—provided, of course, that neither the animals’ care nor condition is compromised.

She also recounts some of the rescue/seizure operations she and TCWR have participated in, often teamed with counterparts from other big cat sanctuaries and related organizations. McCormack recounts different scenarios in the healing of animals relocated to TCWR after these rescues.

This leads to McCormack addressing the emotional toll it takes, when working with these animals regularly touches her heart—and, not infrequently, breaks her heart—and the self-care measures she uses to keep from getting too ground down and tapped out.