Categories: Zoos

Joe Exotic is a likeable man who bred tigers to create money-spinning cubs for photoshoots

On the first day of their lives, Joe Exotic took cubs from their mothers that he had deliberately bred to exploit them. When the cubs grew up they were surplus to requirements and parked at the back of his wildlife park.

Joe Exotic and Theroux. Photo is unattributed and published on Yorkshire Live. Joe wears a pseudo police uniform in this picture, a legacy of his time as a police officer.

Joe Exotic is pleased that he has become famous (infamous actually) because of the success of the Netflix documentary over 7 episodes about his feud with Carole Baskin which ended badly for Joe because he is incarcerated in jail for 22 years after planning to murder her.

He is chuffed to bits that he’s on the tele in a successful series. Fame at last at any price. He is basking in the attention. That’s the modern way. He’s been described by Louis Theroux who almost lived with him for several days while making one of his television shows, as ‘likeable and friendly’. He writes, ‘I warmed to him and his ridiculousness was endearing rather than annoying’.

Before he was banged up for life Joe Exotic owned and managed the world’s largest private zoo called GW Exotic Animal Park, just off Interstate 35, in central Oklahoma, not far from the Texas border.

At that ‘park’ he bred tiger cubs. He had high overheads. Think of the cost of tons of food he needed to feed around 200 adult tigers which he had to support after they had been exploited cubs (and 1,200 other animals). He said he was concerned with conservation but he bred tigers. You couldn’t have more of a contradiction. The adult tigers were ‘surplus beasts…in cages at the back of the property’.

Where he was allowed by state law, he’d take the cubs to roadside photoshoot sessions for kids for which he charge handsomely. I guess he had to charge a lot to cover his overheads. Likeable he may be but also cruel and heartless. It appears that he was locked into a cruel cycle of events. He had to make lots of money to feed and pay vet’s bills for the tigers (I am presuming he paid for vets). So ironically and stupidly he created more tigers; cubs he could exploit. Cubs grow up so their usefulness as money-spinners is short lived. When they become adults they are a financial burden. Did he kill some of them? It is claimed that Doc Antle who owns or owned the world’s largest cat, a Siberian tiger, routinely killed tigers that were too old for photoshoots. He denies it.

That business model was doomed to failure. It could only end up as untenable and in any case at the time US states were shutting down roadside tiger cub photoshoots as it became clear that it is inherently cruel.

We see Joe Exotic handling adult tigers as if they are domesticated. They are because he tore them from their mothers at the first day of life and raised them.


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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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