Arizona sanctuary caring for 7 big cats seized from ‘Tiger King’ facility

May 25, 2021, 1:30 PM | Updated: 2:45 pm
(Facebook Photo/Keepers of the Wild)...
(Facebook Photo/Keepers of the Wild)
(Facebook Photo/Keepers of the Wild)

PHOENIX – An Arizona sanctuary said it’s taking care of seven of the 68 big cats seized by federal authorities last week from an animal park featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King.”

Keepers of the Wild Nature Park announced on social media over the weekend that it was among the organizations working with the U.S. Department of Justice to take care of the animals removed last week from Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

“We are so grateful to have the opportunity to care for these wonderful animals and to work with federal agencies and other accredited sanctuaries to help rescue and protect endangered animals,” Keepers of the Wild founder Jonathan Kraft said in a Facebook post.

“Thank you to all the sanctuaries involved in this operation, for your professionalism, kindness, and cooperation. It took a skilled team of many people to make this happen.”

Keepers of the Wild, which is located in Valentine, about 30 miles northeast of Kingman on Historic Route 66, is currently housing about 150 wild animals, including wolves, bears, leopards and primates.

The nonprofit park is open to the public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. six days a week and closed Tuesdays.

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that the seizure of federally protected lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids and a jaguar was part of a court-approved agreement to resolve a complaint against the Lowes over the animals’ care.

The civil complaint, filed in November, accused the Lowes of recurring inhumane treatment and improper handling of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The couple has received numerous citations for failing to properly care for the animals following three inspections of the Tiger King Park since December 2020.

During a recent hearing, a judge found the couple in contempt for failing to comply with court orders to employ a qualified veterinarian and establish a program of veterinary care for the animals. Daniel Card, an attorney for the couple, told a federal judge that the Lowes “want out completely.”

The DOJ said it was working to ensure the animals are sent to “responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”

Jeffrey Lowe was a central figure in “Tiger King,” the show featuring a mullet-wearing zookeeper named Joe Exotic that became a cultural phenomenon last year.

Joe Exotic, a pseudonym for Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison in Texas for his 2020 conviction on charges that he participated in a murder-for-hire plot and violated federal wildlife laws.

The turbulent beginnings of the Thackerville zoo were the subject of the final episode “Tiger King.” Jeffrey Lowe moved the cats there after the August shutdown of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, also in Oklahoma.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona sanctuary caring for 7 big cats seized from ‘Tiger King’ facility