In the days following Tiger King‘s almost instant viral fame, there’s been a considerable amount of focus on the humans featured in the popular Netflix docuseries, which makes sense considering their murder-for-hire plots and mysteriously missing husbands. But what about the animals?
According to Entertainment Weekly, 39 of the tigers and three of the black bears that were caged at Joe Exotic’s Oklahoma zoo are now living much “happier” lives at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado where the animals are no longer being treated as they were on the hit show. “We are almost the complete antithesis to what those other places do,” public relations director Kent Drotar told the print edition of People. “We rescue and give permanent homes to animals that come from situations like that.”
As for how the tigers ended up at the Colorado sanctuary, the tale starts with Joe Exotic doing a very sketchy favor for a Florida zoo that was facing an inspection from PETA thanks to a pending lawsuit:
“A couple of days prior to that Joe Exotic drove from Oklahoma down to Dade City, Florida, and removed 19 tigers at the behest of the owners of Dade City’s Wild Things,” Drotar said, adding he believes Joe Exotic agreed to move the tigers to his zoo in an effort to thwart law enforcement and because “Joe Exotic was notorious for breeding cubs and selling them to other organizations that used cubs, so there’s a good chance those 19 tigers originated at Joe’s zoo.”
After being threatened with contempt of court for absconding with the tigers across state lines, Exotic attempted to avoided legal trouble by surrendering the tigers, along with 20 more of his own and three black bears, to the Wild Animal Sanctuary. However, the conditions of the animals was not good:
According to Drotar, the tigers came in malnourished and weak, with lackluster coats and extensive dental issues. Additionally, many of the big cats were poorly declawed and had mobility issues as a result. The public relations director also said the animals appeared to have broken spirits as well.
As Drotar notes, Exotic kept the tigers in 12 ft. by 12 ft. cages at his small Oklahoma zoo. At the Colorado sanctuary, they’re spread across several tiger habitats, which are 16 acres each and instantly brightened the big cats’ demeanor. “There is no comparison on where these animals came from and where they are now.”
(Via Entertainment Weekly)