Tiger King Documentary Exposes Cruelty In Cub Petting Industry And Private Tiger Trade

Tiger King

By John Vibes / Truth Theory

The new Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” has been one of the top new shows on the platform since it was released last month. Tiger King has created a national conversation about private tiger ownership and the cub petting industry, which was investigated during the filming of the series.

The series explores an intense feud between the notorious zoo director Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by Joe Exotic, and Carole Baskin, founder of another zoo called Big Cat Rescue. Other zoo operators were also filmed in the series, including  Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and Tim Stark.

Dr. John Goodrich, the chief scientist and tiger program director for Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization, told PEOPLE, “The tiger cub petting industry is a global phenomenon where people pay to pet, play and take selfies with tiger cubs and sometimes even adult tigers and other captive wild cats. In addition to those mentioned and featured in the Netflix series, examples of similar facilities include the Tiger Temple in Thailand, which was linked to black-market trade in tiger parts and shut down in 2016. Walking with lions’ operations, unfortunately, also abound in Africa, where people can pay to pet lion cubs and walk with young lions, which are frequently sold into the canned hunting industry when they grow large enough to become a danger to tourists.”


Some wildlife activists felt that the series did not go far enough into showing the extent of the abuse that the animals deal with at facilities like the ones seen in the documentary.

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund said that the series was a missed opportunity.

“Tiger King missed a clear opportunity to highlight the real tragedy here which is the careless handling and disposal of tiger cubs by the likes of Joe Exotic. Fortunately, Congress is poised to pass the bipartisan Big Cat Public Safety Act to tamp down on private possession of big cats and cub petting. Let’s tell Congress it’s time to leave Tiger King’s showcase of animal cruelty on the editing room floor,” Amundson said.

Kitty Block, president, and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, explained that most of these zoos, even those that masquerade as wildlife reserves, keep their animals in terrible conditions.

“These exhibitors subject baby animals to stress, neglect, and mistreatment. Regardless of whether they are sick, hungry or tired, the babies must accommodate a parade of people seeking a selfie with a tiger cub. To be used for public handling, cubs are pulled from their mothers shortly after birth, causing trauma to both the mother and the infant. The cubs are often deprived of adequate veterinary care and proper nutrition and their sleep cycles are disrupted. Physical abuse is sometimes used to control the cubs,” Block said.

There are currently more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. It is estimated that about 5,000 tigers are privately owned in captivity, and under 4,000 in the wild. Many of the zoos featured in the documentary have since been shut down, and police have reopened an investigation into the death of Carole Baskin’s former husband, who she inherited millions of dollars from after making herself the primary beneficiary in his will.

Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of allegedly hiring an employee to kill his rival Carole Baskin.

Image credit: Netflix

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