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42 Animals Rescued From ‘Tiger King’ Zoo In Oklahoma Now At Sanctuary In Colorado

42 Animals Rescued From ‘Tiger King’ Zoo In Oklahoma Now At Sanctuary In Colorado
42 Animals Rescued From ‘Tiger King’ Zoo In Oklahoma Now At Sanctuary In Colorado

It’s only been out for about two weeks, but Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness has seized the collective interest of people around the globe. With many people self-isolating at home, we are all looking for distraction–and nothing is more distracting than Netflix’s new documentary series. The series mostly focused on the humans behind these big-cat zoos, especially the eponymous ‘tiger king’: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. For many people, the story ended once Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison (for seventeen counts of animal abuse, and two of murder-for-hire). But Joe’s prison sentence is the turning point for a vulnerable group–Joe’s tigers.

A New Home

In 2017, Colorado’s Wild Animal Sanctuary took in 39 tigers and 3 black bears. These animals came from the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (more commonly known as the G.W. Zoo). Because of lawsuits surrounding Joe Exotic and his zoo, the sanctuary has waited until now to publicize their rescue of the animals. Becca Miceli, the chief science and animal welfare officer, wants to make it clear that taking the tigers was not a bid for publicity. “It’s not about the Netflix film, it’s not about anything other than we are trying to give them the best life possible,” she explains.


The ‘Exotic’ Conditions

When Pat Craig, Wild Animal Sanctuary’s executive director, went to rescue the tigers, he was appalled by the conditions. “It was super overcrowded and running out of food,” he says. Craig required armed guards with him during the rescue. Miceli says that there were “smaller cages [than there should be], many animals in a confined space.” The tigers were in poor condition when they were rescued, with teeth and orthopedic issues, as well as malnourishment. But it wasn’t just the physical issues that were plaguing the tigers. “Some of the kiddos that came from the facility, it was a harder transition, some had some of the psychological stress that we can see a lot of times on rescues,” Becca Miceli says. But, since coming to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, “everybody’s been pretty happy, healthy, doing pretty well. They had [the] 2-year mark recently, 2 years of being here, which is great.”


What’s Different In Colorado?

For Becca Miceli, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is to make up for what the animals have lost from being in captivity. “We can’t put these animals back in the wild, so we are giving them as much open space and as much freedom as they can possibly have.” That means that the sanctuary “give[s] them large open spaces, plenty of place[s] to run,” as well as space to “decide what they do throughout the day,” she says. In the G.W. Zoo, “the biggest thing is that [the tigers] were all exploited to some degree,” according to Miceli. “Whether it be for entertainment watching, a person playing with them, for people to take selfies with.”
That, in her opinion, is the antithesis of what a nature sanctuary should be.


The Wild Animal Sanctuary

The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s mission statement lines up very closely with Becca’s.

“Our goal,” according to their website “is to give [the animals] a life of dignity and respect and to make their life as it would be if they could choose.” With over 10,000 acres of land, there is plenty of space for the tigers to live as they choose in their new home in Colorado. Right now, they have over 500 animals that have been rescued. The sanctuary receives no government funding and relies mostly on volunteers and donations.

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Published in US News

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