Carole Baskin studied hard, and cheaply, before "Dancing With the Stars" ... picking up her ballroom basics by watching video tutorials online.
Sources close to Carole tell TMZ ... she immediately turned to YouTube for help after finding out she was going to be on the upcoming season of 'DWTS' -- and she started with the biggies: salsa, cha-cha and the Venezuelan waltz.
We're told she also enlisted the help of a cool cat ... or kitten -- one of her Big Cat Rescue members teaches dance, and gave Carole some tips.
Carole's looking slim at 'DWTS' rehearsals ... our sources say she lost 20 lbs since shooting 'Tiger King' and is down to 165.
We're told Carole has been on a vegan diet and only eats 2 meals a day. She's also riding her bike 10 miles a day, 7 days a week, and doing a lot of squats, lunges and leaps ... and seeing results.
All that health and fitness might help Carole feel like an L.A. local. She's moved to LaLa Land temporarily for 'DWTS.' Her husband, Howard, and daughter, Jamie, are staying home in Tampa to tend to the big cat sanctuary.