The zoo from 'Tiger King' is being investigated after photos appear to show lions infested with maggots and flies

insider@insider.com (Sophia Ankel)
·4 min read
joe exotic tiger king netflix
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.

Netflix

  • The zoo from Netflix's "Tiger King" series is under investigation after photos and a video emerged allegedly showing lions apparently neglected and with maggots and flies infesting their ears.

  • The photos were provided to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) by a whistleblower and show lions at the zoo suffering from severe "flystrike" — a condition caused by flies laying eggs on other animals.

  • The park was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, otherwise known as Joe Exotic, but is now being run by Exotic's former business partner Jeff Lowe, who is said to be cooperating with officials.

  • PETA is asking the US Department of Agriculture to revoke Lowe's license and take away the animals.

  • In an email comment provided to Insider, a representative from the park said: "Are you seriously going to listen to PETA?", calling them "the number one terrorist organization in the United States."

  • The lions are receiving veterinarian care and are being monitored by the USDA.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Federal officials are launching an investigation into the zoo made famous in Netflix's "Tiger King" series after pictures surfaced allegedly showing lions neglected, injured, and with maggots and flies infesting their ears.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says it received three photos and one video sent to by a whistleblower that allegedly show lions at The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma suffering from severe "flystrike" — a condition caused by flies laying eggs on other animals, which eventually hatch into maggots that eat flesh.

"Veterinarians who observed the documentation have opined that the wounds would be extremely painful and that if the lions aren't appropriately treated immediately, they risk losing their ears," PETA wrote in a statement.

The Garvin County Sheriff's Office said the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have both visited the park to investigate after receiving a series of complaints about animal welfare, according to a release issued on Facebook.

The park was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage — famously known as Joe Exotic — but is now being run by Exotic's former business partner, Jeff Lowe. Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullet said that Lowe is cooperating with authorities, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

One picture obtained by PETA shows more than a dozen flies covering a lion's ear, while another shows a lion's skin looking raw and bloody.

PETA is also asking the USDA to revoke Lowe's license and take away the animals, additionally filing an emergency motion with the court to have the lions transferred immediately.

tiger king zoo animal treatment peta
tiger king zoo animal treatment peta

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The deputy general counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement, Brittany Peet, said: "The USDA's inaction allowed 'Joe Exotic' to abuse and neglect animals for years, and so far, it's also failed to help the big cats held by Jeff Lowe."

"In the wake of 'Tiger King,' the public eye is on the USDA to do its job and shut Lowe and his despicable roadside zoo down pronto," Peet added.

In an email comment provided to Insider, a representative from the zoo said: "Are you seriously going to listen to PETA?", calling the animal rights organization "the number one domestic terrorist group in the United States."

"We've invited news crew out here but everyone is scared to report the truth," the statement added.

Lowe purchased the park in 2016 to help Exotic, who was struggling financially due to a legal battle with animal rights activist and rival, Carole Baskin.

Exotic is currently serving a 22-year federal prison term for killing five tigers at the zoo and plotting to have Baskin killed. Earlier this month, a federal judge awarded ownership of the zoo to Baskin, although the zoo's animals remain in the possession of Lowe.

"Since he [Exotic] went to jail, I have been fixing many of his mistakes. Although this is Joe's debt stemming from his mismanagement of the zoo, much like how I am taking care of the animals he abandoned, we are looking into taking care of this as well," a statement by Lowe, published on the park's website says.

The Garvin County Sheriff's Office said the animals are receiving veterinarian care in isolation and are being monitored by the USDA.

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