Earlier this year most of the world’s attention was drawn to Tiger King, Netflix’s crazy-but-true documentary series that explored the intense feud between zoo owner Joe Exotic and his rival Carole Baskin — and exposed the dark world of exotic animal collecting.
The series shows these tigers and other big cats don’t get the proper care they need. Tigers are bred and used for photo-ops as cubs, and animals are fed expired grocery store meat. Joe Exotic eventually goes to prison—in part for his murder-for-hire plot, but also for 17 federal charges of animal abuse.
But even as Joe Exotic headed to prison, his zoo, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, has remained: the land and its animals went to Jeff Lowe, who has continued to operate the zoo and has benefited from the show’s infamy: the park saw a huge boost in attendance when it reopened for the first time post-lockdown.
But new allegations suggest that little has change under the new management, as a whistleblower has suggested that the lions in the park’s captivity were suffering.
A whistleblower told PETA that the lions were suffering from severe flystrike, a skin-destroying condition in which flies bite and lay eggs on animals’ skin. They also captured a disturbing video:
The lions are surrounded by flies also have bloody, damaged ears due to the condition, which can be deadly to animals.
Jeff Lowe has defended the condition of the park, telling TMZ that the flies were a regular problem due to their location, and fly repellents could harm the animals. Animal welfare investigations found no wrongdoing.
But the disturbing details have renewed calls for the animals to be freed from the zoo: a petition calling for their removal has gained thousands of signatures in recent weeks.
“The G.W. Zoo has positioned itself as a turn and burn tourist attraction that profits off the backs of innocent animals through cub petting and photo opportunities,” the petition reads. “This type of business model is unsustainable, and victimizes animals because of the perpetual nature required for a constant supply of cubs.”
In an unusual twist to the Tiger King saga, a court recently ordered the zoo’s original land be turned over to Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue and Joe Exotic’s nemesis and would-be murder victim.
But the animals still belong to Lowe, who has been moving to a new zoo called “Tiger King Park.”
It’s clear that Lowe and his staff are intent on capitalizing on Tiger King‘s notoriety, but it’s also clear some animal lovers have caught on to what these tigers go through and will keep pushing for better treatment.
The petition suggests the animals be turned over to Lions, Tigers & Bears, a big cat rescue, a reminder that there are better places out there for these animals. In the past some of Joe Exotic’s former animals were surrendered to animal sanctuaries and have been much better off.
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