34 tigers, cougars rescued from ailing caregiver - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

34 tigers, cougars rescued from ailing caregiver

(WMC-TV) - A nationwide rescue effort is underway for 34 tigers and cougars that can no longer be care for by their 72-year-old caretaker.

The tigers and a few cougars were living at Riverglen Tiger Shelter in Mountainburg, Arkansas.

"Their caregiver, 72-year-old Betty Young, could no longer take care of them because of ailing health," said Tanya Smith, Owner of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. "She's pretty much crippled now so it's an urgent, urgent need."

Young cared for the animals by walking up and down a rugged mountaintop where the cages were located. The cat's food and water had to be hauled up and down the mountain by foot or four wheeler, conditions that made the rescue difficult and even more necessary.

In fact, National Geographic investigated the owner for their series on reserves in need of interventions.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge helped in the rescue.

"Once we got there and saw it, we were like, 'We don't have a choice. We have got to get busy and save all of these animals that are living out on this hilltop,'" said Smith.

The cost associated with the rescue was more than Smith and Turpentine Creek could handle alone.

At this time, all but five of the cats have been brought down from the hilltop. Most of the cats were between 15 and 22 years old. The average length of life for a tiger is 15 to 20 years old.

"The average per diem that we consider to take care of a large tiger like this per year is about $10,000,increasing the facilities annual budget by around $300,000," said Smith.

If you would like to contribute to the rescue efforts and the animals' continued care, Turpentine Creek is taking donations, click here: http://www.turpentinecreek.org/

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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