Springhill Wildlife Park in Calvert TX
Up until 2019 this facility was not listed by this name nor was the owner, John Wallace listed as being licensed by USDA from anything we could find online. Whistleblowers shared this June 20, 2019 USDA inspection and it appears there are injured and emaciated big cats there, and the USDA is aware of it, but they redact the forms so heavily that it’s nearly impossible to know who is responsible for the neglect.
The following is based upon a FOIA request to the US Fish and Wildlife Service dated June 7, 2012 looking into the June 18, 2008 investigation into Michelle Ashton who was arrested while trying to sell tiger cubs to a Mexican national in the parking lot of WalMart and then Mervyn’s in McAllen, TX. The USFWS provided 115 pages of documents in the case #2008203234. Here is a summary and back up documentation is available.
6/15/08 Local police arrest Michelle Ashton for attempting to obstruct justice when she tries to lock the 6 tiger cubs and herself inside the SUV.
During the arrest and follow up investigation Michelle Ashton says the 4 white tiger cubs and 2 golden cubs are being sold to a breeding facility and zoo in Mexico City, Mexico. She says that two of the white cubs had been born at her facility known as the Springhill Wildlife Park, that she had bought two from Tiger World in North Carolina for $5,000 each and had bought the two golden tiger cubs from GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma for $500 each. All six cubs were between the ages of 4 and 6 weeks. Springhill Wildlife Park co-founder said they had sold the white cubs for 6,700 each and the golden cubs for 900 each.
After consulting their lawyer the Springhill Wildlife Park co-founders said they did not know the tiger cubs were bound for Mexico, but rather said they thought the buyer lived in Texas. This was the key phrase to getting out of jail time and a fine. Tigers can be sold in state, but cannot be transfered across the border. It seems obvious that they were lying, based upon their admission to the police on the scene that the final destination was Mexico, but with no evidence, there wasn’t anything the USFWS could do.
In Report 002 the owners of Springhill Wildlife Park said they had sold a total of 17 tigers and ligers through the Animal Finder’s Guide to this same Mexican. In the previous two sales they had brought the cubs to a Mail Service in Hildago, TX where they would be dropped off as life freight and then picked up by 4 Mexicans. Apparently this postal service station was well known by those wishing to move packages across the TX/Mexico border without both parties being at the same place, at the same time.
Springhill Wildlife Park representatives admitted that they had sold 5 tiger cubs in Oct 2007 to this same Mexican for $23,095.
Springhill Wildlife Park representatives said that the 6 tigers and liger they sold on February 2008 to the same Mexican had been born at their facility.
On Oct 16, 2008 the USFWS investigator’s report says that he contacted someone, name redacted, but presumably Joe Schreibvogel, of GW Exotic Animal Park and the GW Exotic Animal Park representative denied selling the “mutt” tigers to Springhill and insisted that it was a donation. When confronted by the Springhill Wildlife Park testimony to the contrary, the GW Exotic Animal Park representative recanted and admitted to selling the tiger cubs to them for $500. Attachment #17 is a faxed copy of the USDA transfer form from GW Exotic Animal Park to Springhill Wildlife Park. The health certificate to send the cubs from OK to TX was the one issued to Joe Schreibvogel’s traveling cub petting show at the Malls of Mainland. Springhill Wildlife Park representatives testified that they had driven to the mall and picked up the cubs.
To move money from foreign buyers to U.S. sellers there was a corporation called Sandblast Specialties which used the same phone number as Springhill Wildlife Park in their Animal Finder’s Guide ads and a P.O. Box 4274 Bryan, TX 77805 which was the same city as the breeding compound. This same Mexican buyer had transferred $40,155.00 and it appeared that funds were transferred out, sometimes via PayPal to the provider of cubs.
The following is an article about the tiger cub bust at WalMart on June 15, 2008 and a press release by Joe Schreibvogel dated April 27, 2008 where he claims that he is taking all of the cats from Springhill Wildlife Park due to the negligence of the park owners to provide proper care. A year later Schreibvogel is reported to have sent another liger and leopard to Springhill Wildlife Park. In 1998 Springhill Wildlife Park was found to have violated the endangered species protection act by selling a leopard to a private owner in Las Vegas, NV when neither party held valid permits to transport endangered species across state lines. That case was adjudicated in December 1999, yet a full decade later they are apparently still involved in the trade in leopards and tigers with no repercussions.
Authorities continue tiger investigation
McALLEN – Federal authorities continue to investigate the parking lot sale of six Bengal tigers they believe were bound for Mexico.
On Monday, investigators interviewed workers from the Springhill Wildlife Park and Ranch, the facility from which the cubs originated.
Little is known about the park, located at 5650 Springhill Road in Calvert, Texas, about 35 miles northwest of College Station.
“This is the first time they’ve popped up on the radar,” said Special Agent Alejandro Rodriguez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is handling the investigation.
“Agents there have never heard of these people,” Rodriguez said. “They’ve kept a low profile.”
On Sunday, police detained a group of people from the ranch who were attempting to sell the tigers to a pre-arranged buyer in the parking lot of a McAllen Wal-Mart.
Officials seized four white tiger cubs and two orange ones, aged 2 to 10 weeks.
Authorities believe the cubs were bound for Mexico, since they were being transported to a Mexican national in a Mexico-licensed vehicle, Rodriguez said. The transaction occurred around noon.
Though Springhill Wildlife does have U.S. Fish and Wildlife permits needed to sell the animals within this country, it lacks the permits needed for international sales, Rodriguez said.
On Monday, a municipal judge arraigned Michelle Ashton, who police say claimed to be the representative from Springhill Wildlife who brought the cubs to McAllen.
Ashton, 49, was charged with interference with public duties, a misdemeanor. She was arrested Sunday after rushing into the cab of a pickup containing the tigers when Monitor staff began photographing the animals.
Ashton was attempting to force the door of the vehicle closed, resulting in a brief struggle with police. Police noted the truck was on, and she could have tried to drive away if she had gotten the door shut.
Phone calls to a number associated with the ranch’s Calvert address were not answered, and two people who were briefly detained by police declined to comment on the situation to The Monitor Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Bengal cubs continue to be under the care of the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville and are in good condition, zoo officials said.
The tiger cubs are being held behind the scenes as they undergo tests and will likely remain under quarantine for up to 30 days so the zoo can ensure they don’t pose a threat to other animals.
Dr. Amanda Guthrie, a zoo veterinarian caring for the cubs, said the animals appear to have been well taken care of.
“The breeders were known to breed a lot of tigers before,” Guthrie said. “Unfortunately, they know what they’re doing.”
The zoo has received multiple calls from people eager to see the six cubs. Galvan said the zoo will alert the public when the cubs will be on display – which will be in the Small World Nursery – after they are done with procedures and tests.
Brownsville Herald reporter Cassandra Delgado contributed to this report.
Ryan Holeywell covers PSJA, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4446.
Date: June 16, 2008
Two Months Before Selling Ashton 2 Tiger Cubs Joe Schreibvogel Claims
He is Rescuing All Springhill Wildlife Park’s Big Cats
What is not included in the press release below is that Joe Schreibvogel’s G.W. Exotic Animal Park in 2009 allegedly SENT a liger and a leopard TO Springhill Wildlife Park.
/24-7PressRelease/ – WYNNEWOOD, OK, April 27, 2008 – Preparations are at a fevered pitch this week at G.W. Exotic Animal Park as the facility anticipates the arrival of two more tigers in jeopardy from Springhill Wildlife Park in Calvert, TX.
The two mixed-breed tigers are the last of a total of 11 tigers waiting to be taken in from Springhill’s facility near Bryan/College Station TX since August of last year.
The Wynnewood, OK facility received over 18 animals from Springhill in August 2007, many requiring surgeries and and veterinary rehabilitation services stretching the park’s budget. “We won’t be sure of their condition until after they arrive and are fully inspected by our vet,” says Joe Schreibvogel, president and director of G.W. Exotic Animal Park. “As a 100% donor-funded organization, we will need the help of our kind supporters with their ongoing care and any rehabilitation they might be in need of.”
Of the 18 animals rescued last year, 11 were tigers. Many of the 11 suffered missing toes, feet and damage from botched prior surgeries. Jalo a mixed breed tiger and one of rescued 11 had been hit so hard, her right eye and part of her skull had to be removed. Due to the extensive efforts of the G.W. Animal Park, all but 2 of the tigers were saved and now remain happy and healthy at the park.
The two new rescued tigers, upon arrival will remain quarantined for 30 days while they are thoroughly examined by the park’s vet and properly nourished. Once cleared, they may live out their their days at the refuge in Wynnewood under the quality care of the park’s USDA licensed staff or find other cozy accommodations as a donation to another reputable licensed refuge center or zoo.
If they are to remain at the G.W. Exotic Park in Wynnewood, OK, they will require sponsorship for their cages. Individuals or companies wishing to sponsor one of the new tigers are encouraged to call 405-665-5197 and speak with Joe Schreibvogel or Colt Baldwin.
G.W. Exotic Animal Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization founded by the Schreibvogel family. Its purpose is to rescue, rehabilitate and provide safe-haven (refuge) to unwanted and endangered exotic animals. The 16 acre facility in Oklahoma is the nations largest big cat rescue center.