‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’ remains a popular Netflix hit more than a month after its initial release. More than 64 million households have tuned-in to watch the bizarre tale of Joe Exotic’s downfall from petting zoo owner to jailbird. The docuseries follows the clash between the self professed ‘Tiger King’ and animal rights activist Carole Baskin. She allegedly spent $2.5 million (£2m) trying to shut down his facility, GW Exotic Animal Park, in Oklahoma, US. The flower-crown and tiger-print wearing sanctuary owner hoped to expose the alleged animal abuse of Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado Passage. His mistreatment of big cats, document forgery and a murder for hire plot to kill Ms Bakin, ultimately landed him in jail with a 22-year-sentence. The murky world of wild animals kept in captivity was unveiled during the series and has raised many questions about how ethical keeping these animals is. One of the main champions of this conversation is Carole Baskin, whose ultimate hopes for the future world of big cats was revealed to Express.co.uk.
Big Cat Rescue sanctuary owner Carole Baskin came under fire in the wake of the Netflix ‘Tiger King’ docuseries.
In the show, shocking claims were made that she was involved in her now ex-husband Don Lewis’ disappearance 23 years before, which she vehemently denies.
Her current husband Howard Baskin spoke out last month about the “sensational claims” in the documentary and how they felt misled by documentary makers.
They claimed the team told them that the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Mr Lewis would be handled in a “respectful and truthful way”.
Mr Baskin decreed: “Not only did they lie about that, they never even gave us a chance to respond to many of the false claims that ended up in the documentary.”
He claimed that they participated – after rejecting many previous offers – to shine a light on the danger surrounding big cats being kept in captivity and what happens when they are “too big to pet”.
Mr Baskin said: “We wanted to expose the abuse that these poor cubs endure during the cub petting time and the miserable lives they lead in roadside zoos after that.”
They have been campaigning for years to pass ‘The Big Cat Public Safety Act’, which is US legislation that would put an end to these practices.
These goals echo the hopes of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international organisation tasked with exposing and campaigning against animal rights abuses.
Debbie Banks, of the EIA, who has spent more than two decades fighting in a bid to expose and ultimately end big cat crime, believes that Ms Bakin’s aims are moral.
She told Express.co.uk: “People like Carole Baskin, their desire is for there to be no more pet tigers, tigers in roadside petting zoos and other inappropriate places.
“Ultimately they would like to see themselves closed down as they are no longer needed – the end goal is for there to be no need for captive tigers.”
Ms Banks, who claimed to have met Ms Baskin a “couple of times”, stated that she believed the sanctuary owner was “committed to ending tigers in captivity”.
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She continued: “Big Cat Rescue is a recognised sanctuary, they do not allow breeding, buying, selling or the handling of big cats by visitors.
“Ultimately they hope to not need to exist, as no-one should be keeping big cats private and so none will need to be rescued.
“They are a rescue centre which makes them different from those places that are proactively encouraging visitors to handle the cubs and breeding without any reason other than for guests to play with.
“There is no conservation need or purpose for them to be bred in captivity unless they are part of the international ‘stud books’ and even those are restricted to a small number of certified zoos.”
Ms Banks condemned the work of animal facilities, like GW Exotic Animal Park, for “unnecessary breeding”.
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Tragically she explained that the alleged mistreatment of big cats in the US is nothing compared to elsewhere in the world.
She explained: “It is all about profit, whether talking about China, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos or the US.
“Whether it’s the tragic pumped-up tigers in Vietnam, the skinny malnourished ones or big fat tigers of the US, they are just ‘tiger shaped.’
“They are tiger-shaped animals because they possess none of the qualities of the wild tigers.”
Most notably in Southeast Asia, tiger bone products are made as sexual performance aids and a sign of opulence for wealthy businessmen.
There criminal organisations keep big cats on death row and then brutally kill them for their bones to be stewed in wine or turned into a glue product.
Ms Banks said: “Whatever is happening in the US pales in comparison with what is currently going on in Southeast Asia and South Africa, where they are being slaughtered for their body parts to enter a criminal trade.”
For more information on the work of the Environmental Investigation Agency visit: www.eia-international.org.
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