Joe Exotic’s Zoo Changed Ownership Multiple Times Since Tiger King

Carole Baskin might’ve got the last laugh.

by Rebecca Patton and Candace Cordelia Smith
Originally Published: 
Carole Baskin of "Tiger King" poses near a tiger.
Courtesy of Netflix

Joe Exotic’s G.W. Zoo has closed for good, as the subject of Netflix's Tiger King is currently serving 22 years in federal prison. As documented in the series, Joe’s former colleague Jeff Lowe took over the business and changed the name to Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, per the Daily Beast. A number of issues, including criticism from animal rights organization PETA and ownership changes, led up to the zoo’s closure.

Lowe took over as owner of Exotic’s G.W. Zoo in 2016, and in recent years, his ownership term was filled with scrutiny concerning the way he and his wife, Lauren, continued operations. Still, the couple was adamant that the animals' quality of life improved after the park changed hands. "Since we took over, the zoo has spent thousands upon thousands getting every animal the medical treatment and proper diets that greed robbed them of," the organization posted on Facebook on March 11, 2021. "We defy anyone to find a mistreated or neglected animal here. We are one of the few zoo owners in America with a spotless USDA history."

One of the Tiger King producers, Eric Goode, however, had another opinion, telling Entertainment Weekly that Lowe was "basically operating on fumes" due to less business. Goode continued, "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." It was also found via a USDA report that Lowe’s license was once suspended due to violations uncovered by a park inspection, per People in 2020. Last year, Bustle's request for comment from the zoo regarding operations and the animals’ welfare was not immediately returned.

According to a BBC News report in 2020, Lowe blamed the zoo’s shutdown on “pressures” from PETA in a now-deleted Facebook post. Tiger King fans may remember PETA representative Brittany Peet’s Season 1 interview about the alleged “horrid [animal] abuse” that took place at Joe Exotic’s zoo. Following a lawsuit against the G.W. Zoo from Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin, Lowe was forced to leave the property and remove all of the animals within 120 days. Baskin and her husband, Howard Baskin, then became owners of the G.W. Zoo, aka Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park while under Lowe’s control. Baskin offered to help Lowe re-home the remaining animals to another location, but Lowe wanted to move them to his Oklahoma Tiger King Park. It’s still unknown whether the zoo ever opened its doors, despite telling Bustle in a previous statement that it was open to the public “in a rural area” in 2020.

As for the Baskins’ Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, the location was sold in 2021 for $140,000. “We put into the recorded documents from ever being used again not just to house exotic animals but really to have any affiliation with Joe Exotic, Tiger King, or any of that,” Howard told KXII News 12 in August. Indeed, the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park's social media presence has been all but scrubbed of associations with Joe, save for now-deleted posts distancing themselves from him.

Now, no one from the Tiger King series is in possession of Joe Exotic’s zoo. Either way, the G.W. Zoo continues to be a controversial topic of discussion, even with its doors closed for good and its former owner behind bars.

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