This week, the Greater Wynnewood (GW) Exotic Animal Park announced that it has closed to the public after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended its license. The USDA also suspended the exhibitor license of current zoo owner Jeffery Lowe. The USDA report found multiple animal-welfare violations at the zoo.
In March, Netflix docuseries Tiger King introduced viewers to the GW Exotic Animal Park and feud between then owner Joe Exotic (a roadside zookeeper and animal breeder) and Carole Baskin (owner of Big Cat Rescue sanctuary who worked to shut down Exotic’s zoo), along with other eccentric characters classified loosely as “big cat people,” including Kevin “Doc” Antle and Lowe, who all engage in exploiting wild animals for profit. Shortly after the release of Tiger King, Baskin slammed the show for sensationalizing the characters rather than focusing on the animal abuse big cats endure across the United States. “Our new park will, at least for the foreseeable future, be a private film set for Tiger King-related television content for cable and streaming services,” a now-deleted post on the park’s Facebook page said.
In April, animal-rights organization The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released never-before-seen footage of animal abuse at the zoo to show the public the truth behind the big-cat trade portrayed in Tiger King. In 2011, an HSUS investigator uncovered various workers at Joe Exotic’s GW Zoo, including Joe himself, routinely beating and punching tiger cubs in the face, dragging them by their necks and tails, and engaging in other abuse.
Following the release of the footage, federal judge Scott L. Palk granted Baskin control over approximately 16 acres of land in Garvin County, OK, which encompasses the GW Exotic Animal Park. Under the order—which is part of the ruling on a $1 million trademark dispute filed by Baskin against Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC—Lowe was ordered to vacate the premises and remove all of the animals within 120 days.