This week offered a major twist in the long-simmering feud between Tiger King's Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. CNN reports that Baskin's Big Cat Rescue Corporation was granted ownership of Exotic's former Oklahoma zoo by a judge on Monday. The ruling comes as part of a lawsuit against Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC., which Exotic once owned.
Viewers of the blockbuster Netflix docuseries are familiar with the bad blood between the two big cat enthusiasts. Tiger King followed the bizarre war between private zoo maven Exotic (real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage) of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, and Baskin, of Florida's non-profit animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. Their years-long sparring over the fate of exotic animals devolved into threats against Baskin's life and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees (Exotic is now serving a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin.)
The judgement gives Baskin free reign of the 16-acre property in Garvin County, Oklahoma. GWDC, which Exotic's friend-turned-foe Jeff Lowe now controls, must "vacate the Zoo Land premises within 120 days of service of this Order…Vacation of premises shall also require removal of all zoo animals from the Zoo Land," the court order read, per CNN. Baskin will also seize cabins and vehicles on the premises.
“We anticipated Carol Baskin getting the title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic, and we did not challenge her attempts to do so," Walter Mosley, Lowe’s attorney, said Monday, according to CNN. “All of Jeff’s focus is on opening the new Tiger King Park in Thackerville [Oklahoma], which should be opening in the next 120 days.”
Howard Baskin, Carole's husband since 2004, alluded to Lowe's new zoo in a Facebook video message yesterday. "Over a year ago Mr. Lowe announced plans to move the animals to a location in Thackerville, OK that he has been constructing and he claims will be a better facility," Howard said in the video. "He recently stated that he had funds to complete the zoo and a contractor who could complete it in a few months." He concluded that if the "need arises" to place the animals in a home other than Lowe's new zoo, Big Cat Rescue and other animal welfare organizations "stand ready to assist."
The Baskins are no strangers to a courtroom. During Baskin's numerous legal battles with Exotic, depicted in episodes of Tiger King, she waged several lawsuits against the zoo owner. She even won a $1 million trademark infringement lawsuit against him in 2011. In a 2016 suit, Baskin alleged that Exotic has transferred his Oklahoma property to his mother, Shirley Schreibvogel, as a way to evade creditors.
This latest legal win offers a full-circle moment for Baskin, Exotic's No. 1. Enemy. Following the release of Tiger King in March, Baskin and her husband released a statement discrediting the docuseries and skipped the show's virtual reunion special. Fans last heard from the animal activist in early May, when she was tricked into giving her first talk show interview by two YouTubers posing as Tonight Show producers.
Baskin taking ownership of Exotic's zoo is one of many colorful developments to emerge after Tiger King's splashy debut. Others include Cardi B's crusade to free Exotic from prison and unearthed footage of big cat mogul Doc Antle wrangling a tiger alongside Britney Spears at the 2001 VMAs. Additionally, several fictionalized versions of the doc are now in the works. Just when you think you've seen the last of this Netflix phenomenon, it roars back to life.
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