The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado is now home to 39 tigers and three black bears rescued from Joe Exotic’s roadside zoo in Oklahoma, featured in the recent Netflix series Tiger King.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary staff rescued most of the animals back in 2017 as part of a court settlement transfer facilitated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Tiger King, currently Netflix’s most-streamed series, tells the story of Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, the eccentric owner of the for-profit park formerly known as the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation.
When the park was open for business, various lawsuits and criminal allegations ranging from animal abuse to murder surrounded the man and the park.
“It’s not about the Netflix film, it’s not about anything other than we are trying to give them the best life possible,” said Becca Miceli, Chief Science and Animal Welfare Office.
Miceli’s job is simply to take care of animals. She said she was hesitant to watch the Netflix series but wanted to see how zoo conditions were depicted.
“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,” she said.
When Joe Exotic’s tigers arrived at the zoo, the animals had physical and mental health problems that some are still recovering from.
“They did have some issues when we first got them, a lot of dental issues, things of that nature. Unfortunately, they did have some nutritional things that once they got on a better diet, had some things supplemented that they needed, some specific vitamins that big cats can lack,” said Miceli.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a 40-year-old, 789-acre property, currently home to 550 animals. The non-profit is the world’s oldest and largest park specializing in large carnivores. Since its founding, the park has rescued over 1,000 animals.
“We can’t put these animals back in the wild, so we are giving them as much open space and as much freedom as they can possibly have.”
They are able to offer each animal personalized care and attention. Tigers and other animals have enclosures with plenty of space to run in with access to water features and large open spaces.
Kent Drotar, Wild Animal Sanctuary public relations director commented on the docu-series, emphasizing the animals’ perspective.
“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.”
Drotar discourages people from ever supporting organizations that use wild animals for financial gain.
The last six tigers from Exotic’s zoo were transported to their new home in Colorado from Dade City Wild Things on March 31.
The animals will most likely reside on a 9,000-acre tract of land operated by The Wild Animal Sanctuary, according to their executive director, Patrick Craig.
If you would like help to The Wild Animal Sanctuary as they experience food shortages for the animals and decreased revenue due to COVID-19, donate here.