The rise and fall of the “Tiger King”

He isn't the animal loving man we thought he was, it's darker and more sinister than that.

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Image courtesy of Google Images.

Joe Exotic from the hit Netflix documentary Tiger King.

During the madness of Covid-19, Netflix released a limited documentary series on March 20, 2020 called “Tiger King.”  This series followed Joe Exotic, who owned G.W.Zoo located in Oklahoma.  He opened his zoo in 1999 and it quickly became a huge attraction, with around 700 exotic animals. G.W. Zoo also owned about 200 big cats, including pumas, lions,and tigers or anything else related to that species. The documentary covers the good parts of Joe’s life, and the parts he didn’t want the public to see.  Did he love every single animal he owned as he repeatedly stated in the show, or was it all an act and he was just in it for the money?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this series and almost everyone who has viewed it has thoughts on it. Crews began filming the series in 2014 and production took over 5 years. A Lot of things happened during the filming process of the series.  Joe met fellow big cat owner from Florida Carole Baskin and they’ve been battling since, trying to outwit each other. Carole Baskin also loved big cats and she owned “Big Cat Rescue.”  The name is pretty explanatory of what her establishment, which is located in Tampa, Florida. The feud between Joe and Carol was so big, that Joe even said Carole killed her own husband, Don Lewis. Joe said  “Carole Baskin’s third husband, they can’t find his body. We believe that she fed him to the tigers”(lolalambchops.com).  When asked to take a polygraph test, Baskin refused, which many find very odd, especially if it’s for her husband. As of recently, the police haven’t talked to Baskin and she commented that she didn’t have a role in the disappearance of her husband. This case started on August 18, 1997, when Don was last seen leaving his house. The case was low key and not really talked about anymore, until “Tiger king” was released.

Another mystery, was that Joe had a crocodile exhibit that mystically burned down, and killed the baby crocodiles inside.  It just so happens that the studio also housed all of the files and tapes that Joe had been amassing since the opening of his zoo. He kept accusing Carole Baskin of planning the fire and causing the crocodiles deaths, but people have also said they thought Joe himself set fire to the studio/exhibit, only to get rid of the files and tapes. If this is true, he didn’t love the animals as much as he made people think he did and was truly only out to save his reputation.

The saga continued in 2011 when Baskin sued Joe for trademark infringement and ended up winning $1 million which ultimately bankrupt Joe.   When he went bankrupt, Joe partnered up with Jeff Lowe, who was a business man. They put the G.W. Zoo under Lowe’s name so Baskin couldn’t get to it.  To thicken the turmoil even more, Lowe ended up taking the zoo in full custody and pushed Joe away from it. In the series and on Joe’s podcast video sessions he had with his fans, he would always mention his hatred towards Carole Baskin and how he wanted to kill her and a whole more outrageous and cruel things. With all of this crumbling down onto him, there was talk that Joe allegedly asked an owner of a club for recommendations for a hit-man, and he apparently offered an employee $5,000 to kill Carole Baskin. This plan didn’t work and it infuriated him, so he allegedly shot and killed a couple of his older cats, and sold some cubs, then booked it to Florida.  The club owner, James Garrettson informed law enforcement about his encounter with Joe Exotic and as a result, Joe was soon caught and arrested.

Joe is currently serving 22 years in federal prison as he was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse, 9 for endangered species and 2 counts of murder for hire.  It is unlikely the truth will ever come out from any of the parties involved in this twisted saga.