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'Tiger King': Is Joe Exotic's Oklahoma Zoo Still Open?

By now, most of America has watched the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which gives an inside look at the big cat breeding industry in the United States. More specifically, Joe Exotic, the quirky former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison back in 2018 for hiring a hitman to take out the CEO of non-profit animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin. The drama between the two zookeepers (as well as the mystery of what really happened to Baskin's husband) is central to the plot of the true-crime docuseries. But with Joe going to federal prison, what did that mean for the G.W. Zoo and its wild animals?

UPDATE, June 2, 2020: A judge has awarded Carole Baskin's Big Cat Rescue control of the G.W. Zoo in a lawsuit against the Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC. The Greater Wynnewood Development Group was ordered to surrender the land. It was also ordered that all zoo animals be removed from the land within 120 days.

After Joe was busted for attempted murder-for-hire as well as violating the Endangered Species Act, G.W. Zoo was taken over by Lauren and Jeff Lowe. They technically took it over in 2016 while Joe and Carole were in a major lawsuit. According to the zoo's website, it is the largest privately-owned exotic animal park in the country. The Lowes are accredited by the United States Zoological Association and currently house over 230 lions and tigers.

In March, Tiger King creator Eric Goode told Entertainment Weekly that he was worried about what the future holds.

"All I can tell you is that he is basically operating on fumes. No one is going now and there's no source of income, and that's been going on for a long time. It's not something that has just happened because of what's happening in the world today," Goode told EW.

"But I think that it's very sad what's happening to these animals. And it's anyone's guess as to what's going to happen to them."


Who are the Lowes?

The Lowes met Joe Exotic in 2015 after coming to G.W. Zoo to purchase a tiger cub. They ended up staying in Oklahoma to help when Joe was drowning in legal bills before formally taking over everything, even paying off his debt. While there are plenty of conspiracy theories behind Joe giving over his zoo to the Lowes, it seems like the animals are at least in better hands than they were before.

According to the Denver Post, many of the tigers, as well as a few bears from the G.W. Zoo were sent to an animal sanctuary in Colorado. They claim that they are the true animal lovers who helped put Joe behind bars and that the animals in their zoo are now getting the treatment they deserve.

This article was originally published on May 12, 2020. It was updated on June 3, 2020. 

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