Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Journalism (MA)

Degree Level





Dale Carpenter

Committee Member

Larry Foley

Second Committee Member

Tom Hapgood


Communication and the arts, Biological sciences, Documentary, Exotic pet, Turpentine creek, Wildlife sanctuary


The goal of this Master's thesis film project was twofold. First, I wanted to explore the problem, huge but relatively unknown, of the ownership of exotic pets in the United States of America. Second, in conjunction with that problem, I wanted to see how Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR) approached it and what, as an organization, they do to help resolve this problem locally and nationally. In turn, the film also provides an in-depth look at a very unique refuge in the state of Arkansas. Using my own equipment, I shot and edited a short-form documentary about TCWR. The film is comprised of interviews and footage of the refuge and staff located just outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

The idea for this film came from a combination of two completely different subjects: nuclear missiles and elephants. During my coursework at the University of Arkansas, I completed another film about a now defunct nuclear missile program that was located in Arkansas. The idea that something so powerful, yet unknown to the general public, existed in this state, made me want to find any other secrets that Arkansas still had. As I was posing this idea, I stumbled upon a painting by Sue Coe called "The Death of Jumbo." The scene depicts the once famous circus elephant Jumbo being hit by a locomotive. It brought up the question, what happens to these exotic animals after their "show days" are over?

With some guidance from my professors, I was encouraged to investigate two such sanctuaries that existed in Arkansas: Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary and TCWR. After talking with the staff at TCWR, I knew I had a story. What followed was two years of research and filming about a little refuge on top of a hill that has one message: Big cats do not make good pets.

Streaming Media