The Oklahoma zoo that once held Tiger King Joe Exotic’s menagerie of big cats will soon be animal-free.
Oklahoma’s KFOR is reporting that Jeff Lowe and his wife Lauren, who appeared in Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, have agreed to surrender all 61 animals remaining at the park, including a porcupine, a camel, lemurs, bobcats, ferrets, raccoons, and foxes. Almost 70 big cats were seized from the zoo earlier this year.
Since the release of the wildly popular Tiger King, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and its owners have been facing near constant legal threats and government oversight. The Lowes, who seized control of the zoo from Joseph Maldonado-Passage near the end of the documentary, then lost the property to Carol Baskin, who was awarded the G.W. Zoo’s land by a judge in June 2020.
The Lowes subsequently moved all of the property’s animals to their own nearby parcel of land, the savvily-named Tiger King Zoo, only to lose their license to operate that park in August 2020 after inspectors reported squalid conditions at the zoo.
Then, in November, the United States Department Of Justice filed a civil complaint against the pair, accusing them of “inhumane treatment” of their animals and of violating both the Endangered Species Act and Animal Welfare Act. Two months later, in January, a U.S. District judge issued an order that said the Lowes would have to cease breeding animals and relinquish all lion and tiger cubs to the federal government. It also prohibited the pair from exhibiting any of their big cats.
In May, the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service seized 69 big cats from the Oklahoma park, saying in a 52-page-affadavit that a jaguar, seven lions, 46 tigers and 15 lion-tiger hybrids had been sold, purchased, or transported in violation of the Endangered Species Act, thus making them subject to forfeiture. Jean E. Williams, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a press conference at the time that “This seizure should send a clear message that the Justice Department takes alleged harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act very seriously.”
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who was also featured in Tiger King, has also faced his own recent legal troubles. In October, he was charged with two felony counts of wildlife trafficking, as well as 13 additional misdemeanors. Two of his daughters are also facing misdemeanor charges related to alleged animal cruelty and violations of the Endangered Species Act.