With nothing but a passion for animals and a concern about the plight of the tiger, Brian and Terri started the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge to help take in the unwanted tigers that were being abandoned, neglected or displaced because of the pet market boom in the mid 80’s to late 90's.
Brian Werner started the Tiger Missing Link Foundation in 1995 in an effort to start documenting tigers in captivity outside of AZA zoos. One of the tigers that Brian had acquired participated in the first genetic testing of tigers and the results astonished everyone. The tiger turned out to be an Indochinese tiger, a species of tiger that not many zoos even have. This led to the theory that we cannot discard tigers that are being kept in captivity; whether in sanctuaries, small zoos or in private hands, and label them as generic or “junk” tigers. If we are going to save a species from becoming extinct, we must look at every individual out there that represents that species.
In 1997, Terri met up with Brian, and had enthusiasm along with the experience of rescuing big cats. Together they formed the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge on the 25 acres that Brian had purchased years ago here in Red Springs Texas.
Living in a small cabin with no running water, Brian and Terri started clearing land, building cages and preparing a place for unwanted tigers. We recruited any volunteer we could find to help us build, care for the cats and keep the dream alive.
At first we could only afford smaller cages with exercise yards to rotate the cats in. We knew this wouldn't be permanent, but for the time being, it would work. There were many struggles and sometimes things seemed overwhelming, but we knew there was no turning back.
We wanted and needed people to start visiting the refuge, but we had limited means on giving the visitor a great experience. We were very nervous that people would not share our dreams and goals, and therefore not support us, but what we found was quite the opposite. People loved what we were doing for the big cats and knew we would not let anything hold us back on building the best refuge.
With small steps we soon moved out of the cabin and turned it into our feed room. Next we added a small shack that served as a check in point for visitors and we offered some gift shop items to sell. We were really thrilled when the local Coca-Cola representative approached us about a soda machine they had with a lion on the front!
The small growth was exciting for us, but we knew we had a long road ahead of us. Our dreams and goals of rescuing big cats and working in tiger conservation kept us moving ahead.