TV & Movies

Tiger King Star Joe Exotic's Big Cats Are Now All Over The Country

"There are cats that originated from Joe Exotic's facility in literally every sanctuary in America."


Animal Planet's Surviving Joe Exotic special introduced viewers to visually impaired tiger siblings Kryxis and Kadira whose vision was restored by staff at Indiana's Exotic Feline Rescue Center. Once owned by Joe Exotic (real name: Joseph Maldonado-Passage), the big cats were just two of hundreds formerly housed at the Tiger King star's G.W. Zoo, however. As for what happened to the rest of Joe Exotic's big cats that were removed from the privately owned Wynnewood, Oklahoma animal park, Kryxis and Kadira aren't the only animals to have happier outcomes.

With assistance from the PETA Foundation, Wild Animal Sanctuary founder Pat Craig relocated 19 tigers from the G.W. Zoo to his 789-acre Colorado refuge in 2017, after a Florida judge determined they were shipped to Maldonado-Passage illegally. (The Tampa Bay Times reported, at the time, that the tigers were transported 1,200 miles in a cattle truck in the middle of summer.) Craig told the Washington Post that Maldonado-Passage’s requested he return to Oklahoma later to take an additional 20 cats and three black bears. Now, 39 of the big cats — including Fireball, Pearl, and Enzo — featured in the Netflix docuseries are under Craig's care, roaming the Colorado prairie near Keenesburg, per the newspaper.

Animal Planet

Some activists estimate that animals previously owned by Maldonado-Passage could actually be all over the country. “Because Joe was such a notorious breeder, there are cats that originated from Joe Exotic’s facility in literally every sanctuary in America," Lockwood Animal Rescue Center's Matt Simmons, whose Wolves and Warriors organization says helped save two lions and 26 wolves from the G.W. Zoo, explained in Surviving Joe Exotic. "He’s not patient zero, but he’s kind of that hub that everything grew out from because he was just pumping these kittens out left and right.”

It seems that not all of Maldonado-Passage's animals were so lucky, however. The Tiger King subject was convicted in April for several wildlife violations, including allegedly killing five tigers, though he claimed in a lawsuit that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned. Meanwhile, Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for those charges, in addition to those relating to an alleged attempt to hire two hitmen to kill Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin.

Although Tiger King's Jeff Lowe since took over ownership of G.W. Zoo from Maldonado-Passage, an Oklahoma federal judge ruled in June that Baskins' Big Cat Rescue Corporation could take over the 16.4-acre property. “Vacation of premises shall also require removal of all zoo animals from the zoo land," read the court order, giving the current owners 120 days to vacate the premises, per The New York Times.

Following the ruling, the Humane Society of the United States issued a statement, per the newspaper, urging that the remaining animals be transferred to "proper sanctuaries so that they will never suffer again at the hands of unqualified hucksters like Jeff Lowe and Joe Exotic."