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Carole Baskin has gained control of Joe Exotic's former zoo made famous by 'Tiger King'

Amanda Krause   

Carole Baskin has gained control of Joe Exotic's former zoo made famous by 'Tiger King'
  • On Monday, an Oklahoma judge ruled that Carole Baskin is now in control of the The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.
  • The zoo was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage — also known as Joe Exotic — and was featured prominently in Netflix's "Tiger King."
  • According to court documents, Baskin will receive cabins, numerous vehicles, and more than 16 acres of land, but the zoo's animals will remain in the possession of Jeff Lowe, who purchased the park in 2016.
  • Baskin told Insider via email that her animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue and other animal-welfare organizations "stand ready to assist" in giving the wild cats from the zoo a new home should the need arise.
  • At the time the ruling was issued, Lowe had 120 days to vacate the zoo's premises. In a statement sent to Insider on Thursday, Lowe said he's focused on creating "the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen."

The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park that once belonged to Joe Exotic is now in the possession of Carole Baskin.

An Oklahoma judge ruled on Monday that the zoo, which covers more than 16 acres in Garvin County, will be awarded to the animal activist after a years-long feud with its former owner, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Their dispute was recently documented in Netflix's docuseries, "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness."

Baskin, who owns the Tampa, Florida-based Big Cat Rescue, first filed lawsuits against Exotic and his zoo over trademarked logos and copyrighted photos between 2011 and 2012, and obtained a judgment of approximately $1 million. After Exotic failed to pay, Baskin later sued Exotic's mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, in 2016, claiming Exotic's zoo was fraudulently transferred to Schreibvogel so that he could avoid paying creditors such as Big Cat Rescue. The court sided with Baskin, and granted her ownership of the zoo.

In addition to the park, Baskin will also receive numerous vehicles and cabins, according to the court order.

Baskin will not, however, take possession of the zoo's animals. According to the court ruling, Jeff Lowe, who purchased the location in 2016, must "vacate the Zoo Land premises within 120 days of service of this Order," and will be required to remove all zoo animals from the land before leaving.

In a statement emailed to Insider, Baskin said: "Over a year ago, Mr. Lowe announced plans to move the animals to a location in Thackerville, Oklahoma, that he has been constructing and he claims will be a better facility. He recently stated that he had funds to complete the zoo and a contractor who could complete it in a few months."

"If the need arises to make other plans to place the animals in new homes, Big Cat Rescue and the animal welfare organizations that have previously successfully placed big cats from large facilities in new homes stand ready to assist," the email continued.

She also added that the court documents "speak for themselves," and that Big Cat Rescue will not be "posting any further comments at this time."

In a statement emailed to Insider on Thursday, Lowe said he's focused on creating "the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen."

"Although I am not personally named in the lawsuit, it appears that Carole Baskin and her desire to exact revenge against Joe Exotic trumps the livelihood of the families that came together to save her life," Lowe said. "Without our efforts, it is well known that Carole would no longer be here."

"We anticipated Carole Baskin gaining title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic many years ago," he continued. "It is my understanding that she will also be taking the cages from the zoo, which thankfully means that the animals that she has will finally have the proper amount of space to move around."

In an Insider piece about how Baskin and Big Cat Rescue were depicted in "Tiger King," Maddie Stone argued that shots of the sanctuary's animal enclosures were misleading. In reality, Stone wrote, most of the sanctuary's habitats are larger than 1,200 square feet, and live webcams show that the cats have access to "shaded areas with trees, open-air play yards, and a lake."

"Please don't worry about our animals," Lowe said in the statement. "As you saw on the Netflix documentary, I have been building the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen. Thanks to our loyal fans and customers, and the amazing people who work at the zoo, the new Tiger King Park is opening in Thackerville, Oklahoma, this September, directly adjacent to the world's largest casino, Win Star World Casino and Resort."

Progress at the new facility! We are very excited! #oklahoma #happyplace #ok #netflix #tmz #animals

A post shared by Tiger King Park (@tigerkingpark) on May 28, 2020 at 4:40pm PDT

This is not the first time Baskin and those in charge of the zoo in Garvin County have clashed. Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted with plotting to murder Baskin.

Additionally, Baskin has spoken at length about how she feels Netflix's docuseries has mischaracterized herself and her sanctuary, arguing that she has a different philosophy than those who breed big cats for entertainment purposes.

Representatives for Netflix, and "Tiger King" directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, did not respond to Insider's previous requests for comment.

UPDATE: June 4, 2020: This post was originally published on June 2 and updated to include a statement Jeff Lowe shared with Insider.


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