JACKSON, Wyo. — Three former residents of a roadside exotic animal zoo were released in Grand Teton National Park today.
The tigers once belonged to Joe Maldonado-Passage, more commonly known as Joe Exotic, the zookeeper-slash-country-singer who catapulted into the public eye with the release of Netflix’s documentary “Tiger King.”
Joe Exotic was arrested in 2019 for, among other things, plotting to hire a hitman to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin. His zoo was signed over to Jeff Lowe, but Lowe says he plans to move the zoo to a new property and the business has taken a major blow since the COVID-19 epidemic forced him to close.
Lowe sold three tigers to an anonymous private buyer for $10,000 each in an attempt to downsize and make up for lost revenue. The buyer reportedly bought the animals to ensure their freedom, and donated them to Grand Teton National Park to be reintroduced into the wild.
“Tigers actually make sense in Grand Teton National Park,” a spokesperson for the park said. “This is a great way to naturally cull populations of animals that have exceeded healthy capacity in the park. Plus, the tigers will add some healthy predator competition.”
Park wildlife managers plan to introduce the tigers to a diet of non-native mountain goats, which have been the subject of much controversy lately as officials try to eradicate them to save native bighorn sheep.
Plus, officials said, the tigers’ introduction comes at the perfect time. The park is closed to visitors, so the animals can adapt to their new habitat safely and undisturbed.
Officials remind visitors that when the park does open to the public again, tigers are considered large predators and should be at least 100 yards away from humans at all times. Do not approach any wildlife in Grand Teton National Park.
Note: Hey all you cool cats and kittens. Tigers are not at all native to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Joe Exotic’s animals are, as far as we know, still in Oklahoma. Check today’s date. We couldn’t help it.