‘Tiger King’: Jeff Lowe Explains Why Joe Exotic’s Zoo Has to Remain Open

Tiger King captivated Netflix viewers with the scandal of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, his hired hit on Carole Baskin and her suspicion for murdering her ex-husband. The show also raised awareness about the mistreatment of big cats in captivity. That is a record Jeff Lowe would like to set straight after the Tiger King phenomenon.

Jeff Lowe: Tiger King
Jeff Lowe | Netflix

Lowe and his wife Lauren appeared on The Morning Beat on Radio.com on April 12. They are running the Greater Wynnewood Zoo with all the tigers left behind by Maldona-Passage. Jeff Lowe specifically addressed the calls to release the Tiger King tigers and why they must remain at the zoo.

Jeff Lowe says it’s too late to release the feline stars of ‘Tiger King’

Before Tiger King, animal welfare activists and conservationists opposed the keeping of big cats in captivity. Now that fans saw the state of large tigers in cages, they agree. Lowe reminds them that these tigers would not fare well in the wild. 

“I say that those people are completely ignorant because they don’t realize there is no wild,” Lowe said. “You can’t breed an animal in captivity and turn them into the wild because it’s certain death. On top of that, you have to have government approval of both countries.”

Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

Even if it were safe to release the tigers into their natural environments, the red tape would hold it up for years.

“If there was an animal born here, it’s a two years permit situation to get an animal from the United States into another country,” Lowe said. “Those people, that’s the Disney version of what should happen. In reality, it’s impossible. You can’t do it.”

Joe Exotic’s zoo could help replenish endangered tigers

Lowe agrees Maldonado-Passage abused animals as Tiger King depicted, but now that he’s taken over he hopes to turn it around. Tigers are endangered, so until their natural situation improves, perhaps his zoo can help them avoid extinction. 

“If you’re out of oil, you pump more oil,” Lowe said. “If you are out of money, you earn more money. We are out of tigers. This world is diminishing its number of tigers on a daily basis because of the toilet paper and the paneling and the poaching. It’d be nice if we could help make sure that in 50 years there’s still tigers here for somebody to see.”

Lowe ultimately hopes tigers can have better prospects, but that’s not going to happen in the immediate aftermath of Tiger King.

Maybe somebody at some point will give a damn and step up and do something about the eating and diminishing the natural environment of these animals. Without doing that, they’re certain to die. We’re going to prolong that as long as we can afford to do it and give these guys a good life. Sure, they’re in cages but they don’t know they’re not supposed to be in cages.

Jeff Lowe on The Morning Beat, 4/12/2020

Jeff Lowe and Lauren Lowe are taking care of the tigers

As long as the tigers must remain in captivity, the Lowes are making sure they have the best care possible. They have drastically improved the environment over the Tiger King days.

“The 160 tigers that Joe walked off and abandoned when he tried to abscond from the law and he went to hide out in Florida, they are all here,” Loew said. “They’re all in excellent, excellent health. They get the best medical care, they get the best food, they get the best care of any animal anywhere on Earth.”

Tiger King : Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic | Netflix

Tiger King showed how Maldonado-Passage tried to breed as many cubs as possible, to attract customers with pettable babies. Lowe refocused the facility to care for the adult tigers.

Joe built this as a speed breed facility. We are rebuilding it and rebranding it with huge big enclosures for all these guys. We are the owners of the Tiger King brand. We are vigorously defending it. We are sending out cease and desist letters to all these people making counterfeit merchandise. We are going to take what Joe started and we’re going to lay that into the foundation of a financial situation to feed these animals for the rest of their lives.

Jeff Lowe on The Morning Beat, 4/12/2020

Lauren Lowe added, “The right way.”