In 1989 Brian Werner and family purchased a 25 acre property in East Texas. In the spring of 1993 Brian completed his 6 years of service to the United States Navy and moved his wife and four of his older children into a small barn-red cabin located on the 25 acre tract. Living off the grid and with no access to running water they knew they had their work cut out for them.
They began clearing the land by hand while recruiting any volunteers they could find to help prepare a home for the unwanted tigers and assist in building the best enclosures they could with their limited funds. There were many struggles and the task at hand often seemed overwhelming but there was no turning back.
On September 3, 1995 the Werner family formed the “Tiger Missing Link Foundation” in an effort to begin documenting captive tigers that lived outside of accredited zoos. They began traveling across the country to garner support for this new venture and educated people about the plight of the tiger. For a short time, the family’s travels landed them in Brian’s home state of Ohio where the Tiger Missing Link Foundation received its official charter on April 16, 1996 by Brian Werner, his wife, his oldest daughter Brittani and Sara Troutman – an undergraduate student who dedicated time to the foundation.
In 1997, things seemed to be falling in place for Tiger Missing Link Foundation. The National Institute of Health (NIH) performed the first genetic study ever to be conducted on tigers. The study included samples of tiger DNA from a tiger in the care of the Tiger Missing Link Foundation and numerous international zoological facilities.The results shocked everyone! The genetic testing proved that the tiger at Tiger Missing Link was an Indochinese Tiger, a rare subspecies of tiger that was not held in any zoos! Brian realized that we cannot discard the genetics of tigers that are being kept in captivity; whether in sanctuaries, zoos or in private sector. This population of untapped captive tigers living in private sector turned out to be more genetically diverse than both wild tigers and those tigers located within the nation's accredited zoos compounds (future testing revealed that the zoo's held the Malaysian subspecies)! Brian understood that these animals could no longer be labeled as generic or "junk" tigers and that if we are to save a species from extinction we must look at every individual out there. Brian's vision proved that each tiger is a representative of that species and that every tiger matters. Armed with this scientific support the Werner’s returned to Texas in July of 1997 to establish a unique educational facility for tigers.
In 1998, Brian Werner and a formal partner developed the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge as a division of Tiger Missing Link Foundation. Together with a passion for animals and a concern about the plight of the tiger, Tiger Creek was started and to this day Tiger Creek still stands as a program of Tiger Missing Link Foundation. At first they could only afford smaller enclosures with exercise yards to rotate the cats through. They knew this wouldn't be permanent, but for now, it would provide the rescues a safe home. With small steps they soon moved out of the little red cabin and turned it into an intermediate feed room! That little red cabin has now been completely restored and will soon be made a part of the tour to serve as a reminder of our humble beginnings.
Next, Tiger Creek added a small kiosk that served as a check-in point for visitors and even began offering souvenirs (the kiosk resembled a firework stand at best). The small growth was exciting, but there was long road ahead and even more work to do. Tiger Creek wanted to share their passion and needed people to start visiting the refuge, but we had limited means on giving the visitor a great experience. Tiger Creek was nervous that people would not share in the vision, and therefore not support them, but soon discovered quite the opposite! People loved what Tiger Creek was doing for the big cats and they knew that Tiger Creek would provide quality care! The forming of this refuge eventually led to the rescues of other species of big cats that were also being abused, neglected or displaced. Most of these new rescues needed homes because of the exotic market boom in the late 1980's-mid 1990's.
Today "Saving Tigers One By One" continues to be the guiding mission at Tiger Creek so stop in for an up-close encounter and join us as we continue to grow.