Categories: Zoos

How many cats did ‘Tiger King’ have?

I don’t think even Joe Exotic knew how many cats he had at his private zoo during its heyday. The zoo has had various names like its owner, including: The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. The title “The Tiger King’ comes from the Netflix documentary series about Mr Exotic’s feud with Carole Baskin of BCR. Exotic’s other names: Joseph Allen Maldonado, Joe Schreibvogel, The Tiger King, Aarron Alex, Cody Ryan.

Joe Exotic and his zoo. Illustration: PoC. Pic of Exotic in public domain (mugshot). Zoo pic: Google Maps.

Things are and were changing all the time. Although, it seems to be agreed that he had about 200 big cats (source: Wikipedia and other sites). ‘Big cats’ means lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars. However, you have to add up to 1,000 other wild animals including, for example emus, monkeys and wolves. I have searched hard on the internet for an inventory of the animals! No chance of that ever existing.

He is likely to have had other wild cats such a pumas and bobcats or lynx but I can’t find any information on this. He did open the zoo with a deer and a mountain lion (puma). There were 128 species of animal in total he claimed.

There appears to have been quite a big throughput. He was breeding tiger cubs and as far as I can tell culling adult tigers and lions to cut costs. Or allegedly some tigers were shipped out for the tiger parts trade. Mr Exotic lacked scruples.

Once the cubs had served their purpose in roadside photoshoots and grown up they became a financial burden to him. His costs were enormous and he struggled to meet them. There were numerous USDA violations and fines. Exotic was a terrible zoo keeper. For instance in June 2010 an article reported that 23 tiger cubs had died over a 7 month period at the zoo. Mr Exotic claimed their food was tainted but the FDA found nothing wrong with it. This is a single example of many mishaps and lousy animal caretaking.

In another example of his poor attitude he believed that as the tigers were born in captivity and in cages they did not miss their usual desire to roam over large areas. This is incorrect in my opinion because the innate character of a tiger is inherited. It is passed in the DNA. It is fixed in their memory.

In the wild, tigers commonly travel 15-20 kilometers per day and 16-32 kms per night. Let’s say they like space, up to 300 square kilometers of it, rather than a 15 foot square cage.

His damnable park, zoo, big cat concentration camp, call it what you like should have been shut down ages ago. Why were the authorities so lax in allowing him to get away with it? They gave him enough rope to hang himself I guess. He obliged and as you know is now behind bars for 22 years. He is planning to appeal to President Trump for a pardon! Trump’s sons like to sport hunt so the Trump family are not animal friendly but there is no chance he’ll pardon Mr Exotic. It is an exotic and impractical plan like everything that he did in his abusive life. He’s a likeable person though according to Louis Theroux.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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