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The Tragic Story of Joe’s Tigers
Joe’s Tigers, a group of big cats that once lived within the grounds of a shoddy roadside zoo in Oklahoma, garnered media attention repeatedly over the years. Their misfortune has been brought to the fore once more with the release of the highly publicized Netflix documentary “Tiger King”.
Joe Exotic, the Owner of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park
Joe Exotic was the owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, who had an obsession with big cats, using them to fuel his fame and fortune. His park, which had over 200 tigers and lions, was a popular tourist attraction in the area. However, Joe subjected these big cats to appalling living conditions, which included inadequate food and water, cramped spaces, and no veterinary care.
The Tragic Fate of Joe’s Tigers
After years of concerns from animal welfare organizations, the park was shut down in 2011. Federal authorities found Joe guilty of numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act and charged him with multiple counts of animal cruelty. Joe was sentenced to 22 years behind bars, and his tigers and lions were left in legal limbo.
The story of Joe’s Tigers painted a tragic picture of captive big cats in America, highlighting the lack of regulations and oversight in the exotic animal industry.
The Tigers’ Current Fates
Currently, the majority of the tigers and lions that were formerly under Joe’s care are living in sanctuaries across the U.S. Some have found new homes in accredited facilities where they now have access to ample space, nutritious diets, and expert veterinary care.
One of the sanctuaries that took in some of Joe’s big cats is the Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota. The facility is home to five former residents of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, including two tigers named Canyon and Charaka.
Tammy Thies, the executive director of the sanctuary, says that the Joe’s Tigers have largely adapted well to their new homes, despite their difficult past.
Challenges Faced by Sanctuaries
The transition to sanctuaries has not been easy for all of the tigers. Some have suffered from health problems and behavioral issues arising from their time in captivity.
Moreover, the sanctuaries that have welcomed the tigers have had to bear the cost of providing for these animals for the rest of their lives. Big cats in captivity can live for up to 20 years, and the upkeep of their habitats can be quite expensive. According to Thies, it costs approximately $10,000 a year to care for one big cat.
Deeper Issues in the Exotic Animal Trade
The situation with Joe’s Tigers highlights the bigger problems within the exotic animal trade in the U.S. The lack of regulations and oversight in the industry has led to rampant abuse and neglect of animals. Even after Joe Exotic’s park was closed down, numerous other roadside zoos and private owners still keep exotic animals under deplorable conditions.
The U.S. Congress has introduced several bills in recent years aimed at tightening regulations around the exotic animal trade, but none have yet passed into law.
Joe’s Tigers are just a few of the thousands of victims of the exotic animal trade in the U.S. Their story is one of tragedy and abuse, but it is also a story of hope and redemption. Although their futures might have seemed bleak before, they are now in the hands of dedicated organizations that are committed to providing them with the care and support they need for the rest of their lives.