Joe Exotic: Just a Lover of Big Cats


Lexi Ibarra, Features Editor

The Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has swept the nation leaving a lasting impression of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic. Exotic was the founder of G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. 

There are a lot of people who believe Exotic to be guilty of animal cruelty and a murder-for-hire plot against founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, Carole Baskin, but there are also those who believe that Exotic is a good person at heart.

I am one of those people. 

While Exotic has made some questionable decisions there is no doubt that many of those decisions were strongly influenced by Jeff Lowe. Lowe began helping Exotic with money trouble due to financial stress brought on by Baskin. When Exotic was unable to pay him back, Lowe stole the zoo.

The feud between Baskin and Exotic was undoubtedly the worst feud in big cat history. The two were at each other’s throats constantly threatening each other and having petty arguments which lead to the eventual arrest of Exotic in 2018.

Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for “two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Oklahoma.

Before Exotic’s arrest, Baskin claimed that Exotic was running a back door business and illegally breeding tigers to sell and also criticized the size of the cages Exotic’s animals were in. 

“A tiger needs 400 square miles of territory in the wild, so there’s no cage that’s going to be sufficient,” Baskin said in an interview with What’s Trending.

Well, Carole, have you seen the size of your cages? 

Baskin owns a rescue center for big cats in Citrus Park, Florida where she invites the public to attend day tours, night tours and kids tours. This is no difference than when Exotic invited the public into his zoo to learn about the animals.

Baskin is nothing but a hypocritical animal keeper. She and Exotic both kept their animals in cages way smaller than 400 square miles, and they both wanted to help the animals. I see no difference between Baskin’s and Exotic’s housing for animals.

Baskin calls her park a “sanctuary” and on her website she states that the animals in her park were rescued from drug dealers, backyard breeders and circus’ but John Reinke ex-manager of the G.W Zoo says otherwise.

“She may have saved a couple of animals but most of ‘em she bought. Just through the time she multiplied,” Reinke said in an interview with David Spade.

I would never own a big cat or any wild animal in fact but what Exotic was doing was a good thing. He started the zoo to help the animals, to care for them because who else was going to do that? These beautiful animals are going extinct in the wild and he wanted to change that.

“Joe has a heart, forsure, 100 percent, I seen it with the animals…which is why I got on board in the first place. We both had this passion and charisma for animals in general,” said ex-employee Saff Saffery in an interview with David Spade.

Saff had his arm amputated after an incident at the zoo with a tiger in 2013 when he became “complacent” when feeding the tigers before tours started for the day and Exotic, past emergency medical technician, went to his side to help him.

Saff left the zoo when Exotic began his sentence.

Exotic’s heart was always in the right place from what I have heard and seen from the people he has worked with. He didn’t deserve to lose everything he had.