If you're interested in bingeing your way through what's literally going to be a wild watch, consider Netflix's new docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. The docuseries follows the true story of Joe Maldonaldo-Passage, who went by the name "Joe Exotic," and is currently in prison serving a 22-year sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to murder his staunch critic Carole Baskin. (He was convicted in 2018.) Worth noting: The true crime doc was also inspired by true crime podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King, which also follows the events in the life of the self-proclaimed "Tiger King."
Joe Exotic was the eccentric owner of a private Oklahoma zoo called the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, where he boasted about owning the largest tiger collection in the United States. But conditions at the zoo were often described as less than ideal for the animals that were housed there. PETA even launched an undercover investigation, and subsequently released video footage of the mistreatment of the zoo's wildlife.
As the documentary shows, Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, was a vocal critic of Joe because she was against the ownership of big cats and practices like cub-petting, which often took place at the G.W. Zoo. Joe Exotic did not take her criticism lightly, and the two ended up in a full-blown rivalry, which ultimately ended with his murder-for-hire conviction.
Here's everything you need to know about the true story of Joe Exotic behind the new Tiger King docuseries:
Joe Exotic had an interest in animals since he was a young boy.
According to Texas Monthly, Joe participated in the Future Farmers of America when he was a child, and his interest in animals often led him to bring home wildlife, like raccoons and ferrets.
He also once confided in his brother, Garold, that he one day hoped to live in the wild in Africa, so that he could be near animals. The brothers, along with Joe's first husband, Brian Rhyne, eventually bought a pet store together, which Joe ended up selling after his brother's untimely death, per the publication.
The death of Joe Exotic's brother led him to purchase his now-infamous zoo.
As Joe recounts in Tiger King, Garold died after being hit by a drunk driver. Following a lawsuit regarding his death, Joe used the $140,000 settlement to buy sixteen acres of land, which he would eventually convert into the G.W. Zoo, according to Texas Monthly.
The zoo eventually grew to house more than 1,200 animals, including a large collection of big cats that even included a rare tiger-lion breed.
Joe often attacked Carole publicly for her criticism, and she eventually sued him for trademark infringement.
Joe Exotic did not hide his dislike of Baskin and often harassed her on social media. He also attempted to hurt her business by renaming his zoo.
In order to confuse patrons of Big Cat Rescue (Baskin's sanctuary), Joe Exotic once changed the name of his zoo to that of Baskin's company and began using the same logo in promotion. Baskin successfully sued him for $1 million, forcing Joe Exotic to go into bankruptcy and sell his zoo to another big cat enthusiast, Jeff Lowe, per Texas Monthly.
The relationship between Lowe and Joe Exotic turned out to be rocky, but despite not owning the zoo, Joe still maintained involvement with the zoo's operations. Lowe is still the CEO of the zoo to this day, but he and his wife have plans of relocating it closer to Texas, according to Oklahoma News 4.
In 2020, Joe was sentenced to 22 years in prison for murder-for-hire and animal abuse charges.
In April 2019, a jury found Joe Exotic guilty of attempting to pay a hitman (who turned out to be an FBI agent) $3,000 to murder Baskin, as well as eight counts of violating the Lacey Act by falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, according to the New York Times. His crimes against animals involved shooting and killing fiver tiger cubs.
While Joe Exotic is in federal prison, Baskin still operates the Big Cat Rescue and recently spoke to Vanity Fair about the Tiger King docuseries. She said that she had hoped it wouldn't overstate the role he played in her life.
"I think for Joe, [the feud] was probably very personal, because people said there wasn’t a day in his life that he wasn’t ranting and raving, and carrying on and calling out my name. But for me, he was just one of about a dozen of these bad guys that I was exposing online, talking to reporters about, and saying, 'no, conservation [does not mean] breeding tigers for use as pay-to-play props," she told the publication. "He wasn’t a big part of my life in any way, and to have it be this great story… it’s been really frustrating for that to be the perception that he was some huge part of my life."
Joe Exotic currently plans to appeal his conviction.
He maintains his innocence in the whole ordeal. In a press statement posted to his Facebook, Joe wrote, "I still maintain my innocence and looking [sic] forward in the upcoming days to my attorneys filing my Appeal and moving on to the next step in this Nightmare. At some point the U.S. Attorneys office and Agents involved will have to answer to the fact that they participated in Perjury to obtain this conviction."
Joe Exotic is infamous for more than just the G.W. Zoo.
Exotic was an eccentric personality and described himself as a "gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet." He was once a musician who created low-budget music videos for country songs he would sing. He also created content for his television shows, Joe Exotic TV and Joe Gone Wild. His YouTube channel is still live on the video sharing platform.
In 2016, Joe also ran for U.S. President as an Independent, and then for Governor of Oklahoma in 2018. While running for president, he was accused of throwing "Tiger King-branded" condoms at a crowd that included children after giving a speech at his zoo, per Oklahoma News 4.
Today, Joe Exotic remains in prison, in hopes that one day he will be able to successfully appeal his conviction.
You Might Also Like