The documentary mini-series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness has become one of the big hits of the quarantine. This binge-worthy show has captured the imagination of America as we all pace our homes like tigers trapped in cages. The eccentrics, criminals, lowlives, psychopaths, and genuine animal lovers make for compelling viewing.
Lost in the whole thing is the fate of the tigers. The documentary shows that the big cats were often mistreated, used as props by egomaniacs and wannabe cult leaders, and euthanized when they were no longer cute or sellable.
So, following the success of the show, a new level of attention has been put on the tigers that zookeeper and eccentric weirdo Joe Exotic owned. Currently residing at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, they're under the care of Becca Miceli, chief science and animal welfare officer at the sanctuary. She was part of the team that went down to Joe Exotic's private zoo, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. They took possession of 19 tigers and brought them to their rescue facility. There, the animals have a wide open space and a balanced diet. This is in contrast to Joe Exotic's habit of feeding the tigers expired meat and road kill.
She was originally reluctant to watch "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" but she was eventually curious about whether or not the tigers she cared for were featured in the documentary.
"I was pausing a lot and saying, 'Hey, I think that's ... " she said."I wasn't really surprised by the documentary," said Miceli. "I saw firsthand, myself."
"The biggest takeaway that we hope people get from the documentary is that they see past the characters and see what the real problem is," said Miceli. "These animals have no voice. They are constantly exploited, constantly bred. They don't get a choice. That's being forced upon them."
Unfortunately, the sanctuary has been hit by a drop in income due to the coronavirus. With fewer people visiting, the caretakers are relying on private donations to keep the tigers fed.
"The coronavirus doesn't make anything stop for the needs we have to provide as an organization," explained Miceli.
As there still aren't enough solid laws in the books to make big cat ownership illegal, Miceli is worried that other private zoos similar to Joe Exotics will suffer from a lack of attendees and will be unable to feed their animals.
"With those zoos, their funding is going to change because people aren't going," said Miceli. If the zoos don't have enough money to feed and care for their animals, Miceli thinks they will look to get rid of them.
"Sadly, I do think that we're going to get a high influx of phone calls," said Miceli. "The concern would be that there's going to be a huge surge of animals in need. You're talking hundreds and hundreds of animals."
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