The Controversy Surrounding Jeff Lowe’s Ownership of the GW Zoo
Jeff Lowe’s ownership status of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, also known as the GW Zoo, has been a topic of controversy and confusion for many years. The zoo was made famous by the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King” that featured owner Joe Exotic, but since Joe Exotic’s incarceration, the future of the zoo has been up in the air. In this deep dive, we will take a closer look at Jeff Lowe’s ownership status of the GW Zoo and the legal battles he has faced in recent years.
Jeff Lowe’s Involvement with the GW Zoo
Jeff Lowe first became involved with the GW Zoo when he was introduced to Joe Exotic in 2015. Lowe was a collector and dealer of exotic animals and became a business partner of Exotic’s. In 2016, Exotic transferred ownership of the zoo to Lowe, citing that he wanted to avoid paying the settlement in a trademark infringement lawsuit against Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. However, many questions emerged about the legality of the transfer and whether Exotic was coerced into the agreement.
The Legal Battles Surrounding the GW Zoo
In 2018, a federal court awarded Baskin ownership of the GW Zoo and ordered Exotic to pay $1 million in damages for trademark infringement. The court found that Exotic had fraudulently transferred the zoo to Lowe to avoid the judgment. Baskin’s victory left the future of the zoo in question, but Lowe stated that he would relocate the animals to a new facility in Thackerville, Oklahoma, called the Tiger King Park.
However, the Tiger King Park never opened and was mired in controversy. Lowe faced numerous legal issues, including unpaid taxes and allegations of animal mistreatment. In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice seized 68 big cats from the GW Zoo due to numerous violations of the Endangered Species Act. The seizure marked the end of the GW Zoo, and all the animals were relocated to other facilities.
Jeff Lowe’s Future in the Exotic Animal Industry
Despite the closure of the GW Zoo, Jeff Lowe continues to be involved in the exotic animal industry. He announced the opening of the new Tiger King Park in Oklahoma in 2021, which plans to house tigers and other exotic animals. However, it is unclear whether the park will receive the necessary permits from Oklahoma authorities to open.
The Larger Issues Surrounding Exotic Animal Ownership
The legal battles surrounding Jeff Lowe and the GW Zoo highlight the complex legal landscape surrounding exotic animal ownership. The controversy surrounding the transfer of ownership from Joe Exotic to Lowe underscores the importance of transparency in these transactions, especially when significant legal issues are at stake. Furthermore, the seizure of the animals at the GW Zoo highlights the urgent need for stricter regulations around the treatment of exotic animals in captivity.
The case of the GW Zoo also sheds light on the darker side of the exotic animal industry. The Netflix documentary “Tiger King” showcased the bizarre and unethical practices of individuals like Joe Exotic, but also highlights systemic issues that need to be addressed. The documentary brings to light the exploitation of exotic animals in zoos, which often prioritize profit over the welfare of the animals. The need for stricter regulations and better oversight of these facilities is clear to prevent future instances of mistreatment and abuse.
In conclusion, the controversy surrounding Jeff Lowe’s ownership of the GW Zoo is just one example of the complex issues surrounding exotic animal ownership in the United States. While the closure of the zoo marks the end of the saga of the Tiger King, the larger issues of transparency, animal welfare, and the regulation of the industry remain to be addressed. It is clear that stricter regulations and better oversight are necessary to ensure that the animals in captivity are treated humanely and that the industry is held accountable for its practices.