The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, seen in Netflix's documentary series Tiger King, is officially closing to the public.
In a Facebook post, owner Jeff Lowe confirmed the news that its federal animal exhibition license was suspended.
Moving forward, the zoo will be used as a filming site for Tiger King-related projects.
The Tiger King story continues to unfold. This week, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, where the Netflix documentary series took place, permanently closed to the public. Any chance of singing Joe Exotic's original song "I Saw a Tiger" next to Joe Exotic's actual tigers, is officially dashed.
Fittingly, the zoo will have a second life as a private film set for Tiger King-related content. Initially the subject of a podcast, the Netflix documentary phenomenon about Joe Exotic and his problematic zoo then spurred memes, costume parties, and plans for countless remakes, including one starring Kate McKinnon and another with Nicolas Cage.
Current owner Jeff Lowe confirmed the news of the zoo's closure in a Facebook post. According to the post, Lowe contacted the USDA to "voluntarily forfeit" his exhibitor's license—a decision he and his wife, Lauren, allegedly made a month ago. Coincidentally, the following day, the USDA suspended his license for different reasons, citing a "litany of falsehoods." Lowe claimed that the USDA "folded to the pressures of PETA" and made "false accusations" against him and his zoo, which houses hundreds of big cats.
Essentially, the zoo continues to be a maelstrom of drama—which, for viewers of Tiger King, is no surprise. Much of Tiger King's action (and music videos) take place among the trailers and training pens of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, located in Wynnewood, OK, where visitors could interact with tiger cubs and see exotic animals.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the eccentric figure at the heart, first founded the zoo in 1999. Tiger King follows big cat activist Carole Baskin's efforts to close the zoo, and later, Jeff Lowe's purchase of the zoo in 2016. Today, Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence for a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin, and several wildlife violations.
The zoo's story has continued in the news since Tiger King's release, back in March. Like Baskin's Big Cat Rescue, the zoo closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tiger King's documentarians raised alarms about the animals' health during that time. "I think that it's very sad what’s happening to these animals. And it's anyone's guess as to what's going to happen to them. Some will be placed but I would suspect a lot of them will die from starvation, and probably be put down," documentarian Eric Goode said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
The zoo reopened to the public in May, raising concerns about crowding and the zoo's tigers contracting coronavirus. “In the best of circumstances, [cub petting] is a questionable, unsupportable practice,” Dan Ashe, president of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, told National Geographic. “Given what we know about the risk of COVID-19 transmission between humans and felines, I think it’s reckless.”
However, the park's closure doesn't guarantee the animals' safety. Per Facebook, Lowe said that Tiger King has provided an "unfathomable source of income" that will "guarantee the long term care of our animals and allow us to be very selective going forward," but didn't lay out plans.
Baskin, who has been concerned for the animals' welfare for years, responded to the news of its closure. "I know everyone is going to bombard me with the question we all want answered; "What about the animals?" Baskin wrote on Facebook. "We don't know yet what will happen but will alert you the minute we do."
Here's what we do know: The story of Tiger King will continue in miniseries and movie form, with the real-life subjects weighing in, too.
For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter.
You Might Also Like