Some of Joe Exotic’s former zoo animals are living new lives at a spacious Colorado sanctuary.
Thirty-nine tigers and three black bears that previously lived in Oklahoma’s G.W. Zoo now reside at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado, The Denver Channel reports.
“We try and give them large open spaces, plenty of place to run, decide what they do throughout the day, if they want to lay in the sun, play in the water, scratch on a log,” said Becca Miceli, chief science and animal welfare officer the sanctuary, told the outlet.
Those animals have actually been at the Colorado sanctuary since 2017, but their location is making headlines now due to the popularity of Netflix’s “Tiger King” and public interest in what became of the animals in the docu-series.
The animals came to the sanctuary in two different groups. The first group included 19 tigers Exotic had gotten from Dade’s City Wild Things Zoo in Florida, which was embroiled in a legal battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But Exotic faced potential legal trouble for transporting the big cats over state lines, and agreed to give them to the Colorado nonprofit to avoid charges, sanctuary spokesman Kent Drotar told People.
Not long after, he gave the sanctuary an additional 20 tigers and three black bears. Drotar chalked that up to Exotic beginning to have a “change of heart” and mulling over getting out of the zoo business. This was around a year before Exotic was indicted for putting a hit out on Carole Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue in Florida.
The tigers and bears were in bad shape when they first got to the Colorado sanctuary, Miceli told local news station KDVR.
“Smaller cages, lots animals in confined space, lots of animals acted stressed, showed psychological distress these animals can endure in facilities where they are forced to be out on exhibit or forced to pose for pictures,” she said.
Some also had serious dental issues or nutritional deficiencies, or were suffering from botched declawing jobs.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary has two locations ― one 789-acre property Keenesburg and another in southeastern Colorado, called The Animal Refuge, that’s 10,000 acres. There are 550 animals between the two properties.
Most of Exotic’s tigers remain at the Oklahoma zoo, which is now called the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and operated by Jeff and Lauren Lowe.