TV & Movies

Why Joe Exotic Named His Zoo After His Brother

Garold was the only sibling Joe was close to.

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Long before he rose to worldwide notoriety, Tiger King's Joe Exotic was simply Joe Schreibvogel, one of five children born to a pair of Kansas farmers. According to New York magazine, Exotic grew up as the middle child of four siblings — two brothers and two sisters. It was through their family farm that he was introduced to the animal world: though they kept all the standard farm animals like cows, chickens, horses, dogs, and cats, he and his siblings also brought home wild animals like porcupines, raccoons, and baby antelope.

Exotic shared his passion for animals with his brother Garold, who also loved exotic creatures and wanted to see big cats in Africa, per Texas Monthly. In 1986, the two opened a pet store together, where they started selling fish and snakes as well as more interesting animals like armadillos and opossums. But in 1997, Garold was hit by a drunk driver and killed. Devastated, Joe dedicated his life's work to Garold: he used the settlement money from the accident to open his roadside zoo, naming it the Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park in honor of his brother.

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This relationship was much different than the one Exotic had with the rest of his siblings: according to Texas Monthly, he's no longer close with any of them. That could perhaps be because one of them allegedly outed Joe to his father after high school, leading Joe to attempt suicide, according to Texas Monthly.

It's unclear where Exotic's other siblings are now. But considering his niece — the daughter of Exotic's youngest sister — called him "evil" in a recent interview with the Daily Mail, it doesn't seem like the family will be reuniting any time soon.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.