Tiger King zoo closes suddenly after license suspended

Owner Jeff Lowe said Oklahoma zoo would be closing with immediate effect, citing pressure from animal rights charity Peta

The Oklahoma zoo at the centre of hit Netflix series Tiger King has announced its immediate closure after having its license suspended.

The US Department of Agriculture suspended Greater Wynnwood Exotic Animal Park’s exhibitor license on Monday. On Tuesday night, owner Jeff Lowe said the zoo would be closing with immediate effect, citing pressure from the animal rights charity Peta.

He wrote on Facebook: “The Tiger King phenomenon has definitely changed our lives in many ways. It has brought us more attention than any human deserves, good and bad. It has, and probably will continue to make us a target of every nutjob and animal rights loon in the World, but we are prepared.”

He added: “As of today, we have decided to close the old zoo effective immediately.”

Lowe is the former business partner of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, the star of the Netflix documentary. Earlier this year Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a 2017 murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin, the owner of a Florida animal sanctuary, and for multiple wildlife violations.

In June, a federal judge ordered the zoo to be transferred to Baskin following a $1m trademark dispute ruling, giving the current owner 120 days to leave.

In the Facebook post, Lowe claimed he had already forfeited his license voluntarily before USDA told him it was suspended. The government agency, he said, had “folded to the pressures of Peta and continue to make false accusations against me”.

The USDA said its animal and plant inspection service suspended Lowe’s exhibitor licence on Monday for 21 days. A spokesman added: “The facility is closed, and Lowe may not conduct regulated activity during the suspension. After the 21-day suspension, APHIS will evaluate the status of the animals at the facility and determine next steps.”

A Peta spokeswoman, Brittany Peet, called for Lowe’s license to be permanently revoked, adding: “His tiger-terrorizing days may soon be over. Peta looks forward to seeing every one of the long-suffering animals at the GW Zoo be transferred to an appropriate facility where it won’t take federal intervention for a sick cat to receive veterinary care.”

Lowe claimed the animals would “continue to have excellent care”. He said he plans to create a new park that will act as a “private film set” for “Tiger King related television content for cable and streaming services”.

There have been reports of a rumored second season of the Netflix show and, separately, Nicolas Cage is set to star as Joe Exotic in an eight-part TV drama.


Miranda Bryant

The GuardianTramp

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