The Justice Department seized 68 big cats Thursday from the Oklahoma zoo once owned by Joe Exotic and featured in “Tiger King.” Exotic’s old rival, Jeff Lowe, now owns the property.
The feds took possession of 46 tigers, 7 lions and 15 hybrids (ligers and tigons), according to an affidavit. A lone jaguar, not classified as a “big cat,” was also seized.
Lowe and his wife, Lauren, were found in contempt of court for failing to surrender the cats earlier, which a judge ordered back in January. Their lawyer said last week that the couple “don’t want to fight this anymore.”
The zoo, formerly known as Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and now called Tiger King Park, was closed in August after Lowe’s exhibitor’s license was suspended.
“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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams in a press release.
Netflix’s “Tiger King,” featuring Exotic (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage), Lowe, Carole Baskin and a host of curious characters, became a sensation in March 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S.
Exotic remains in prison after being sentenced to 22 years in 2017 for a murder-for-hire plot to kill Baskin.