“Gay Redneck with a gun,” is what Joe Exotic, the protagonist of the documentary series, King of the Tigers: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, calls himself.
Netflix released the documentary on March 20, and there is no better time for this premiere: a total lockdown is a great opportunity to unravel the intricacies in the life of the odious wildlife breeder.
Seven episodes cover two decades of Joe Exotic and other heroes, each of which is talkative in stories about the zoo and its mores.
We tell what is left behind the scenes of the main spring premiere of Netflix about the abuse of power and the diverse abundance of people and animals.
CAUTION THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE TEXT!
Is it true that tigers in America more than in the wild?
The series ends with a sad conclusion: in captivity across America lives from five to ten thousand tigers, while in the wild – less than four thousand.
These data are confirmed by the specialist of the International Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals, Carson Barilak, to whose words National Geographic refers.
Similar figures are in the reports of the Wildlife Fund and the American Service for the Protection of Fish Resources and Wild Animals.
Nobody knows the exact number of wild cats in households and roadside zoos: the federal authorities do not regulate this business.
What’s happening with the american law on the breeding of lions and tigers?
The conflict between the owner of the zoo Joe Exotic and animal rights activist Carol Baskin in principle arose because there is really no understandable and binding law for everyone that would regulate the breeding, trade and use of wild animals for commercial purposes.
Some U.S. states, such as California, Utah, or Georgia, explicitly prohibit captive breeding of wild animals.
Florida, Michigan, and several other states ban partially, while Texas, Arizona, Idaho and others ask for a special license.
By the way, it’s easy to get it: the deputy general adviser of PETA says that all you need for a permit paper is to fill out a special form, buy a large cage and pay a hundred dollars.
In six states – Nevada, Oklahoma (where the Joe Exotic Zoo was located), Alabama, North Carolina, Delaware and Wisconsin – there is no such prohibition in principle.
Last February, the Big Cat Public Safety Act bill was submitted to the US House of Representatives. After that, it was submitted to the House’s Natural Resources Committee and received a positive assessment. It is now being prepared for consideration by the entire house, where the vote will decide his fate.
With the release of Tiger King, attention to the bill increased – for example, Diane Keaton stood up for him, asking him to speed up adoption.
Bill co-author Mike Quigley wrote a letter to other congressmen and asked them to support the bill on Twitter with the hashtags #TigerKing and #BigCatPublicSafetyAct.
If the bill is passed, then the Americans will be forbidden to keep and breed large cats, and circuses and zoos – to exploit cubs. Lion cubs and cubs are safe only the first few months of life.
The mercenary owners of some zoos allow them to stroke, feed and photograph – for a fee, of course. Sometimes they are given drugs so that animals are obedient.
After cats grow up, lions and tigers are illegally sold or completely killed: keeping and training are expensive, and making money on them not as easy as on kittens.
How to distinguish a normal zoo from a bad one? Who certifies them?
Three zoos certify American zoos at once: the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), and the Global Federation of Animal Shelters (GFAS).
There are differences between them: two associations accredit and certify zoos and aquariums, and the federation – animal shelters, which can sometimes be similar to them (remember the park that contains Carol Baskin).
The accreditation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is considered to be the best – due to very high standards and strict requirements for keeping animals, veterinary services and other criteria.
In addition, AZA accreditation is a long and expensive process: the process can take a year and cost fifteen thousand dollars. That is why only ten percent of the nearly three thousand zoos and aquariums in the United States have a supporting document from this Association.
However, the certificate of conformity is only an option, but not a prerequisite. The so-called roadside zoos in the USA are still a blind spot in the field of vision of these organizations (PETA even has their blacklists).
How’s Joe Exotic doing now?
Joe Exotica was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison last spring for attempting to organize murder and animal cruelty.
The trial against the owner of the zoo was widely publicized, but gained worldwide fame only with the release of Tiger King. Now, Joe is going to build a career in media: the British Metro reports that Exotic will launch its own program on the radio.
“Let’s see what comes of this,” said husband Joe Dylan Passage. “This is amazing.”
At the same time, Exotic, whose real name is Maldonado-Passage, plans to obtain a pardon from Donald Trump and sue ninety-four million dollars from the Fisheries and Wildlife Protection Service – he estimated the death of his tigers and supposedly false accusations.
However, Exotic does not deny the mistakes of the past: in an interview with Netflix, which was recorded over the phone, the breeder of wild animals says that he is “ashamed of himself” and that the “saga with Carol Baskin” is over.
How is Carol Baskin Zoo different from the others?
Silver in the list of the most talked about characters in the series can be safely given to Carol Baskin, the animal rights activist and owner of the Big Cat Rescue shelter for lions and tigers.
This house for fifty cats – anyway, judging by the series – looks like Joe’s Zoo: Carol also takes entrance fees and sells souvenirs.
Unlike Exotic, Baskin does not pay money to those who care for cats – they are considered volunteers. So what is the difference between what Carol does and what her archenemy does?
Big Cat Rescue is a non-profit organization – this is repeatedly emphasized on the shelter’s website. Baskin does not buy wild animals, so all pets are those who were abandoned by their previous owners, zoos or rescued from farms.
Carol does not breed cats, because after that the animal is not able to live in the wild. However, this was not always the case: Baskin bred them until 1997, which she herself talks about.
As for the enclosures, they – as the former volunteer assures in the thread on Reddit – are definitely more than in the Joe Exotic zoo.
“A typical aviary is 1,200 square feet. There were more, but less was not. The cells contain either one or two animals,” – she says.
Aviaries are designed in such a way that the animal always has the opportunity to go deeper, away from people. According to her, in the shelter there is a practice of “holidays” for animals.
Large cats were sent to two and a half acres (more than ten thousand square meters) for two weeks, and small cats to half a acre (a little more than two thousand square meters).
In Big Cat Rescue physical contact with animals is forbidden: no one can stroke, hug or feed them from a bottle.
And, of course, Carol, along with her husband, is actively promoting the law on ethical relations with wild animals, which is also quite actively broadcasting on the website and Facebook page.
All this markedly distinguishes her shelter from the zoo Joe Exotica – even despite the fact that the serial image of Carol Baskin is far from ideal.
What else is known about the disappearance of her husband?
The third Tiger King series is entirely dedicated to the disappearance of Carol Baskin’s second husband Don Lewis.
The millionaire disappeared on August 18, 1997, but so far no one knows anything about him. Carol announced her husband’s disappearance the next day, and five years later she issued a death certificate, allowing her to dispose of Don’s condition.
There is no evidence of her involvement – unless, of course, they do not count Lewis’s notes in which he spoke about the threats of murder (Carol denies this). The zoo defender was not charged, and there was no evidence against her either.
The version that Carol fed her husband to tigers is just a conspiracy theory, albeit a very popular one. The Lewis disappearance case is still open, and with the release of Tiger King, the Tampa Sheriff hopes that new details will appear in this story – but so far to no avail.
Interestingly, Tiger King completely omitted the story of exactly how Don Lewis earned his millions – probably in order to give this storyline more mystery.
In the early eighties, Lewis did not just sell real estate – he re-loaned people who were not able to pay a mortgage.
Usury is doubtful from the point of view of the law, because the interest on such loans is always very high, and the only property often acts as collateral – houses and apartments, which were left to Lewis after the debtors could not pay for predatory loans.
Other investors spoke of him as “ruthless” – which probably significantly expands the circle of Lewis ill-wishers who were left without funds.
However, this fact does not stop those who like to weave conspiracy theories: after the release of the series, Carol Baskin complained about calls with threats of violence.
What about Bhagavan Antle?
Another controversial character in the series is Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, “mentor” Joe Exotic and the owner of the zoo in Myrtle Beach.
Doc called him not without pathos – The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, T.I.G.E.R.S. At the same time, he was repeatedly accused of cruelty to animals – for example, that Antle uses gas chambers to kill.
The owner of the zoo, as usual in the “Tiger King”, denies all charges.
“This is not a documentary,” says the breeder. “This is a daring and outrageous parody, the purpose of which is to create a drama and connect everyone else with a story of enmity between Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin”.
In the second episode of the series, Barbara Fisher, a former employee of the Bhagavan Zoo, tells terrible details about the “relationship” within the team, but admits: “The dock will always mean a lot to me.”
“When I first heard about T.I.G.E.R.S., it sounded like utopia. The site said that they are all vegetarians and use the principles of yoga to educate animals, ”she continues.
Bhagavan paid a hundred dollars a week to all employees, but at the same time they lived in a stable full of cockroaches. Further, her monologue more and more resembles a story about harassment and seduction.
“He said that I was just rubbish, but if I obey him, he will give me enlightenment. To quickly succeed, you had to sleep with him. I did not want to sleep with him, but I thought about it.
He loves a certain type of women: they must be virgins or at least just young. He became their first sexual partner, they quickly became attached to him, and he could make them do anything.
According to him, it was like “shaktipat”: if a guru touches you, he gives you enlightenment. In fact, this is shaktipat with a penis.”
Her story is illustrated by numerous photographs of Antle, in which young women surround him.
With the release of the series, Doc was accused not only of cruel treatment of animals, but also of polygamy.
He replied to the accusations like this:
“I have no harem. When I, like a cowboy, say “my girl”, this does not mean that we are talking about my wife. Of course, I have girls, girlfriends, they have been changing for decades. But I have not been married since my [legal] wife died twenty years ago. I’m a lonely guy, I even live alone at home.”
Probably, from the point of view of the law, there is now nothing to present to him – unless, of course, Fisher and other employees of the series do not want to go to court with a statement about harassment in the workplace.
Jeff Lowe open his zoo?
At the end of the series, Joe Exotic partner Jeff Lowe, who now owns his zoo, promises to build a completely new one – and even shows the place where aviaries are allegedly being built.
They promise to open it in the summer – but probably because of the pandemic of the new coronavirus this promise sounds too optimistic.
Now he and his wife run the Exotic Zoo, which is regularly reported on Instagram. By the way, it was renamed: now this place is called Tiger King Park.
What happened with husbands Joe Exotic?
The first, but unofficial husband of Joe Exotic, when he was still working in a gay bar, was Brian Ryan. They met in the early eighties, and their relationship lasted for almost twenty years. In 2001, Ryan died of AIDS-related complications.
The second husband was John Finley, he is in the series. Their relationship began in 2003 and lasted eleven years. Once the breeder of wild cats even forced Finley to get a tattoo “Private property of Joe Exotic” in the groin, but today the ex-partner interrupted her with a drawing of a bull’s head. At the same time, Joe Finley is not gay.
“He left me for the sake of the girl,” – Joe Exotic in the series laments. “I can’t compete with her.”
Today, Finley is engaged to Stormy Sanders, a former zoo secretary, and has inserted his teeth.
“I’m very happy how things have changed in my life,” – he says in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
Third lover Joe Travis Maldonado, as we know from the series, accidentally committed suicide. After the suicide, Exotic built a monument to him, but today it is not known whether the monument stands in its original place.
The fourth and official husband, Dillon Passage, is waiting for Joe from prison.
“He [Joe Exotic] is a rather wild character, but don’t get me wrong,” – Passage comments on the show. “This documentary really showed its more eccentric sides. But behind the camera, Joe is very cute and sensitive, he would give everything to help someone.”
Passage now lives in Florida, before quarantine he and Exotic called up several times a day. At the same time, Dilon will not be upset if in prison his husband falls in love with someone else.
“Joe is a very affectionate person. Love and support are important to him, no matter where he is now. He likes to touch, hug. If it makes him happy, then I’m only happy,” – says Passage.
What happens to animals from Joe Zoo?
Thirty-nine tigers, three bears, two baboons and three chimpanzees were rescued from the zoo in Winnwood through PETA efforts – now they all live in “reliable shelters.”
Other animals remain there today, you can see them on the Jeff Lowe instagram.
Who shot this series?
The director’s chair was shared by two people: Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode.
Five years ago, they wanted to make a documentary about the problems of breeding and keeping wild cats in households across America, but decided to stretch the pleasure into seven episodes: Chaklin and Goode could not even imagine what turns would open in this story.
The texture for the film was easy to assemble.
“We were fabulously lucky that all the characters were literally obsessed with filming,” says Chaiklin. “Narcissism was a common feature, so their desire to film the camera was just a present for the directors.”
For her colleague, Hood, the Netflix series is important from an activist point of view. In 2005, he founded the Wild Turtle Protection Fund, at which time he began filming short documentaries.
They are all about how people trade in wild animals and destroy the natural habitat of those who currently live in the wild.
“It seems that last year I spent forty percent of my time traveling and filming. Several times we didn’t have time to arrive on time, but in other cases we captured everything as it was.”
And it was not in vain that they tried: in late March, “The King of the Tigers: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” topped the list of the best series of recent times, compiled by the Rotten Tomatoes website.
The success of the series provided Netflix with a 40 percent increase in views, so fans are now waiting for a feature film about Joe Exotic, Carol Baskin and other documentary heroes.
Support the magazine so that we can continue to work ❤