- After watching the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, many viewers want to know what G.W. Zoo (a.k.a. Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park) is like now.
- Joe Exotic owned and operated the Oklahoma zoo until 2019.
- Jeff Lowe, a key investor in the zoo, took over once Exotic went to jail in 2020.
While the disappearance of Carole Baskin's husband has dominated headlines, Netflix's Tiger King tells an even bigger story about the wild world of big cat breeders and zoo owners in the United States. The rise and fall of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by "Joe Exotic," is at the heart of the Netflix docuseries — and most of the story takes place at his zoo, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (a.k.a. G.W. Zoo) in Oklahoma.
Exotic's downfall, of course, happens after he's convicted of two counts of murder-for-hire, falsifying wildlife records, and nine violations of the Endangered Species Act in 2018. On January 2020, the zoo owner was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and he's currently being held at held at the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma. This begs the question: Did all this controversy cause the G.W. Zoo to shut down? Here's what we know.
Is G.W. Zoo still open?
The Oklahoma zoo is still open for business, but under new ownership. Jeff and Lauren Lowe took over when Exotic was struggling to maintain the zoo while dealing with his million-dollar lawsuit with Baskin. Today, it still claims to be the largest privately owned exotic animal park with more than 230 tigers and lions. The zoo is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, 365 days a year with a $15 general admission ticket.
Tiger King creators warn that the zoo shown on screen looks far less inviting in real life: "All I can tell you is that he [Lowe] is basically operating on fumes. No one is going now and there’s no source of income, and that's been going on for a long time," Eric Goode told Entertainment Weekly. "But I think that it's very sad what’s happening to these animals. Some will be placed but I would suspect a lot of them will die from starvation, and probably be put down."
And according to Lowe, this isn't too far from the truth. "The attention that thing has brought will fill the bank account back up for awhile, but it's always depleted in the down time. When people don't come to the zoo in the winter and we're spend $5,000 or $6,000 a week on food and $2,500 on veterinary care, we struggle," he said on Lights Out with David Spade.
Despite money problems, Lowe confirmed on Lights Out that the couple is rebranding the zoo to be called "Oklahoma Zoo" and moving the animals to a 55-acre plot of land in Thackerville, Oklahoma in summer 2020. It's still unknown what they plan to do with the acreage Exotic left behind.
While details about the new zoo are still few and far between, the couple has made it clear that Exotic's face, name, or brand will not be anywhere near their new zoo. "His name will not be mentioned," Lauren Lowe told KOCO News. "He will have nothing to do with the new facility. Going to let this place in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, die with him."
How did Jeff and Lauren Lowe get involved with G.W. Zoo in the first place?
Jeff Lowe, who first met Exotic when he flew him out to visit his zoo in Colorado a few years back, now owns and operates the zoo along with his wife Lauren. "He trusted me to be smart enough to run this park. We came here, bailed him out of trouble, paid all the bills, and the lawsuits started burying him," Lowe said during his Lights Out interview. Once Baskin's lawsuit hit and Exotic knew it was past the point of repair, he closed the zoo and dissolved the corporation. "He had the doors closed when we took over," Lowe confirms.
Many viewers, however, still find it hard to believe that Exotic willingly closed the zoo and let the Lowes take over. "They touched on about 10% of the story and, you know, the portrayal of us stealing the zoo from Joe was very unfair because we came here to help him, we got it back on its feet," Lowe continued. "We left to move away because we didn't want to be in a zoo in Oklahoma, so the notion that we tried to steal the zoo from him is just ridiculous."
In a now-deleted post on the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park’s Facebook page, they even went so far to describe themselves as a "couple who loves animals took out the World's largest wildlife trafficker."
"Come see how healthy and happy all the animals are, now that the horrible abuser rots in Federal Prison," they continued, according to Women's Health.
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