Big cat owners in Netflix series “Tiger King” don’t have resources to care for animals, let drama in way of operations


Maddie Kosc

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve been spending your quarantine keeping up with the latest Netflix releases and enjoying them with friends on Netflix Party. After scrolling through countless social media posts tagged #freeJoeExotic, I finally caved and decided to watch what had been the #1 ranked show in the U.S. for days, “Tiger King.”

The Netflix original docu-series consists of 7 episodes, about 45 minutes each, and primarily follows the story of Joe Maldonado, also known as Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed ‘Tiger King’. Exotic supposedly owned nearly 200 big cats: tigers, lions, panthers, and more. After watching the show, it was apparent to me that no one should own big cats as pets, nor should they be able to exploit them for profit in their backyard zoos.

The primary conflict of the series revolves around Exotic’s feud with Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, and supposed savior of captive big cats. What I found, upon watching the constant battle between the two, was that the ownership of these exotic animals came with a great sense of pride and narcissism. Carole Baskin viewed herself as the ‘good guy’ in the feud, but as a viewer, it was hard for me to distinguish between Carole and Joe’s operations.

Regardless of what Baskin claimed is different about her ‘animal sanctuary’, the bottom line is that she too holds big cats in captivity. Carole Baskin is a hypocrite, given that she spends countless hours advocating against others such as Exotic, who also hold tigers and lions captive. It was clear to me that she had lost sight of her mission, which was to save the big cats held in captivity, and instead gave in to a never-ending power struggle with the unwavering Joe Exotic.

Not only are both Exotic and Baskin guilty of holding these big cats captive, both also showed viewers how difficult it is to care for exotic animals. From the facility to the feeding, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the needs of the big cats. Both the G.W. Zoo (Exotic’s facility) and Big Cat Rescue did not have the proper land area to accommodate the basic needs of the animals.

Feeding the cats is another story. In the series, Exotic was seen feeding the tigers and lions expired meats delivered to the zoo from Walmart. If the truck didn’t come or was short of meat, Exotic’s animals didn’t eat. It would cost millions of dollars to properly feed over 200 big cats, and Exotic most definitely did not have those resources to adequately care for his animals.

No matter what these Tiger Kings and Queens claim to do for big cats, all big cats require resources that those in the show can not provide. These captive tigers and lions deserve to live in the wild, as does any exotic animal, and be freed from toxic backyard zoos.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Maddie Kosc at [email protected]