From a heated presidential race and racial unrest to COVID-19 and quarantine television binging crazes, 2020 has been one for the books.
When it comes to the world of entertainment, it’s quite possible that the most unexpected of those culture-shifting events were the television crazes — particularly, the popularity of “Tiger King.“
Fans of the Netflix documentary are no doubt aware that that Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to hire a hitman to murder Big Cat Rescue’s Carole Baskin — his biggest rival.
Maldonado-Passage’s conviction isn’t the only drama to come out of the exotic animal zoo rivalry.
According to local authorities, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is being investigated over alleged mistreatment of the wild animals in captivity on its 16-acre property.
On Thursday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released what it said were photos and video footage sent to it by a whistleblower of lions at the G.W. Zoo suffering from a condition called “flystrike,” which tends to befall animals in unclean habitats.
Warning: The following images contain graphic material that some viewers may find disturbing.
In a news release, the organization described flystrike as “a condition in which flies, usually drawn to uncleared animal waste, bite other animals and lay eggs on them and the hatched maggots eat away at their skin — which is destroying their ears, at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (G.W. Zoo), operated by Jeff Lowe.”
According to PETA, if flystrike isn’t properly treated, the big cats run the risk of losing their ears from the wounds.
PETA said it has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act against Jeff Lowe, who in 2016 took over ownership of the zoo from Maldonado-Passage, the Netflix show’s main character. Maldonado-Passage has also been accused of abusing the exotic animals at the zoo, and was convicted last year of killing five tigers, CNN reported.
“The USDA’s inaction allowed ‘Joe Exotic’ to abuse and neglect animals for years, and so far, it’s also failed to help the big cats held by Jeff Lowe,” the PETA Foundation’s deputy general counsel for captive animal law enforcement, Brittany Peet, said in a statement.
“In the wake of ‘Tiger King,’ the public eye is on the USDA to do its job and shut Lowe and his despicable roadside zoo down pronto.”
The Garvin County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Thursday that had “received numerous calls” regarding the wellbeing of the animals at the G.W. Zoo.
“We have requested that the USDA, US Fish and Game and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife start their own investigation. Based on these complaints, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has been to the park and has conducted their own inspection,” the sheriff’s office said.
“The USDA has been to the park and is currently conducting an investigation as well. Animals that are injured are receiving veterinarian care in isolation and are being monitored by USDA.”
In a comment under the post, the sheriff’s office indicated that at least two animals have been removed from the zoo.
“The USDA has already removed a lion cub from the park on Monday of this week and a big cat was placed in isolation for medical reasons,” the office said.
No matter what happens with the USDA’s investigation, it’s not likely that any of the animals will be living at the G.W. Zoo for long.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk of the Western District of Oklahoma awarded the zoo to Baskin — who had successfully sued the Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC — and gave Lowe 120 days to vacate the property.
However, since the animals at the zoo are technically Lowe’s property under state and federal law, the court order does not apply to them, according to National Geographic.
In addition to losing ownership of the zoo, Lowe has also been sued by the state of Oklahoma for $50,000 in back taxes.
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