Federal, state, and local authorities are investigating the Oklahoma zoo featured in the Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” after the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement with their findings of the evident neglect of the animals.
A whistleblower has provided PETA with both photos and video footage from the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, also known as the G.W. Zoo, of animals in deplorable conditions. The evidence shows juvenile lions suffering from severe “flystrike”—a condition in which flies bite other animals and lay eggs on them. The maggot offspring then bites away at the skin of the infected animal.
The G.W. Zoo was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as "Joe Exotic." Passage is currently serving a 22-year sentence for the attempted 2017 murder-for-hire scheme to kill a prominent animal rights activist Carole Baskin, along with multiple violations of wildlife laws.
Jeff Lowe had been in control of the zoo, but recently he was court-ordered to give up ownership to Baskin, after she won her case against Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC (GWDC). He was given 120 days to vacate the property.
Baskin said that her Big Cat Rescue offered to help Lowe in placing the animals in new homes, but he declined her offer. Lowe stated that his animals will be rehomed at his new park, which is set to open in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in September.
PETA has urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate reports of neglect and suffering at the G.W. Zoo. They have also filed an emergency motion with the court seeking to have the lions transferred to an accredited sanctuary right away, according to the statement.
According to Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett, injured animals are receiving veterinarian care in isolation and are being monitored by USDA.
In a Facebook post, Mullett’s office released a statement that said it had received “numerous calls” about the zoo and its animals. He said based on the complaints the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has been to the park, running their own investigation.
In a follow-up comment on the initial post, the sheriff’s department stated that at least two cats had been removed from the property and that their office, along with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and USDA will “submit charges.”
“The USDA’s inaction allowed ‘Joe Exotic’ to abuse and neglect animals for years, and so far, it’s also failed to help the big cats held by Jeff Lowe,” said PETA counsel Brittany Peet.
PETA is pushing to revoke Lowe’s license and put a stop to his new zoo. Lowe is currently facing charges connected to non-permitted exotic animals and operating without a license in Las Vegas, according to KTNV.