While watching Netflix’s wildly-successful docu-series Tiger King, many may wonder ‘What happened to all of Joe Exotic’s animals?’
The first season of the show concludes with the G.W. Zoo’s former owner, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by the name Joe Exotic, in jail for a murder-for-hire plot and the zoo under the new ownership of Jeff Lowe, but little is said of the current state of the G.W. Zoo’s tigers.
Kent Drotar, the public relations director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, has some answers. Thirty-nine of the tigers and three black bears formerly under Joe Exotic’s care are now living in the expansive habitats of Keenesburg, Colorado sanctuary.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary as a non-profit consists of two properties: The Wild Animal Sanctuary itself — the 40-year-old, 789-acre home for wild animals rescued from neglectful and often illegal situations — and the Wild Animal Refuge, a close to 10,000-acre property in a remote part of southeastern Colorado acquired 2 years ago to provide even more space for the sanctuary’s rescues. The Wild Animal Sanctuary and the Wild Animal Refuge do not breed their animals and do not allow guests or keepers to have hands-on contact with the animals.
Between the two locations, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is currently caring for around 550 animals.
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“We are almost the complete anthesis to what those other places do,” Drotar told PEOPLE, referring to the private zoos depicted in Tiger King. “We rescue and give permanent homes to animals that come from situations like that.”
According to Drotar, about 80% of the sanctuary’s residents, among them lions, jaguars, tigers, wolves, bears, ostriches and more, arrive there after being confiscated by a law enforcement agencies. Often this is by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which seize abused and/or illegally-owned wild animals and then place those animals in appropriate sanctuaries once the legal proceedings connected to the animal’s seizure are complete.
The other 20% are animals that are willfully surrendered by owners to the Wild Animal Sanctuary. Sometimes, owners moving to Colorad