The Journey of Joe Exotic’s Tigers: From Controversy to Rescued
In 2008, Joe Exotic, the eccentric big cat owner, opened a new chapter in his life. He founded the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (GWEAP) in Oklahoma, an attraction that housed over 100 tigers, lions, bears, and other exotic animals. He quickly gained a loyal following, thanks to his charming showmanship and entertaining YouTube videos featuring his majestic cats’ antics. However, as the years went by, Joe’s life took a dramatic turn; he got embroiled in several legal battles, was accused of animal cruelty, and eventually, found himself serving a 22-year sentence in prison. But what happened to his beloved big cats?
The Fate of Joe’s Tigers
The fate of Joe’s tigers became a matter of public concern after the release of the Netflix documentary series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness in March 2020. The show became an instant hit, taking the audience behind the scenes of the controversial world of big cat owners, revealing dark secrets, and portraying Joe Exotic as a charismatic yet troubled individual. The show also shed light on the big cats’ situation, most of whom ended up in less than ideal conditions.
Jeff Lowe Takes Over the GWEAP
After Joe was arrested in 2018, the GWEAP was taken over by Jeff Lowe, a former friend turned business partner. However, the park’s condition soon started to deteriorate. The facilities were run-down, and the animals were living in substandard conditions. Several instances of animal abuse were reported, and the park became a target of criticism and scrutiny.
The Transfer of the Big Cats to Animal Sanctuaries
In September 2020, the US Department of Justice requested that Jeff Lowe surrenders all the animals on his property due to the park’s continuous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Reports state that the cats were transferred to various animal sanctuaries across the US, including Big Cat Rescue in Florida, Wildcat Ridge Sanctuary in Oregon, and the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.
Challenges Faced During the Transfer
However, the situation wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed. The transfer of the animals was met with several challenges, including legal battles and disagreements between the parties involved. In particular, Jeff Lowe refused to let go of a few big cats and accused the animal sanctuaries of not having adequate facilities to house the animals. He also claimed that he has the legal right to keep the cats on his property.
Plans for a New Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma
In October 2020, a federal court granted an injunction that prevented Jeff Lowe from exhibiting or breeding animals and required him to allow the inspection of his property. Jeff and his wife, Lauren, also announced their plans to open a new park in Thackerville, Oklahoma. They claimed that the park would be an improvement over the GWEAP and would provide a better environment for the animals. However, animal welfare advocates criticized their plans, citing Jeff’s history of animal mistreatment and his lack of experience in running a reputable animal sanctuary.
The Tigers Now
Despite the challenges, the tigers and other big cats that once lived at the GWEAP are now in better hands. Several sanctuaries have been working tirelessly to provide them with a better quality of life, one that they deserve after years of captivity and abuse. The sanctuaries also provide an educational platform, teaching visitors about the dangers of keeping wild animals in captivity and the importance of conservation efforts.
The journey of Joe’s tigers is a testimony to the challenges that big cats’ face in captivity. The plight of the tigers also highlights the importance of regulating the private ownership of exotic animals and preventing their exploitation for commercial purposes, ensuring their well-being and protection.