Right about now it’s fair to say we’re all living under a proverbial rock while void of social interaction. But, if at this point you haven’t heard of Netflix’s docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” you’re living under a rock, under a rock — and maybe even another rock.
In any case, “Tiger King” is the story of the relationships and rivalries between the owners of various big cat parks across the United States, particularly Joe Exotic, an unapologetically eccentric, gay, gun-owning owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (aka the G.W. Zoo) in Oklahoma. After a series of bizarre incidents, Exotic eventually lands himself in federal prison as a result of a murder-for-hire plot and animal abuse. Trust us — just watch the series.
With the arrest and incarceration of Exotic, it leaves one wondering what happened to the tigers at his park, the ultimate victims of the documentary. Well, some of them are now in their new home of Colorado, at The Wildlife Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg — just 41 miles northeast of Denver.
“We hope that people see past the hype, ‘glamour’ and intrigue and focus on the animals caught up in it all — especially the ones that are still being exploited,” said Kent Drotar, the public relations director for the nonprofit, in an email to The Denver Post.
In 2017, the animal sanctuary was able to take a total of 39 tigers and three black bears from Exotic’s Oklahoma park. They found that many of the big cats had both physical issues and mental trauma as a result of their captivity.
According to the sanctuary staff, watching the Netflix series was rough.
“It was difficult, I mean a lot of this stuff we saw for ourselves when we were there, the small enclosures, the indiscriminate breeding, the cub experiences, the exploitation, so all of that was very apparent when we were on the rescue,” said Becca Miceli, chief science and animal welfare officer, to Denver7.
Thankfully, it sounds like the tigers are doing much better these days. There’s no cub petting, breeding, or tiger selfies at The Wildlife Animal Sanctuary, all practices at Exotic’s former zoo.
“We try and give them large open spaces, plenty of places to run, decide what they do throughout the day if they want to lay in the sun, play in the water, scratch on a log,” Miceli said.
Due to COVID-19, the animal sanctuary is closed but is still accepting donations.
“The sheer volume of Facebook posts and new stories is indicative of how much ‘Tiger King’ has caught on with people,” Drotar said. “We are so proud to have given them a wonderful and loving home for the time they were with us and only wish GW hadn’t exploited and used them.”