If there’s one series that’s blown everyone away, it’s Tiger King. This seven-part documentary became available on Netflix in late March 2020, and though it was released with little fanfare, viewers around the world are absolutely obsessed.
The events of the documentary unfold around central characters like Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Jeff Lowe – and the stories are so crazy they’re almost hard to believe. As viewers learn about the little-known exotic wildlife world hiding right in the heart of America, they also discover a compelling true crime story featuring a murder-for-hire plot, animal mistreatment, and even arson.
But if one thing is certain about Tiger King, it’s that viewers can’t get enough of its cast of unique characters. As crazy as the events of Tiger King seem, there’s plenty more that wasn’t aired when the documentary premiered. Since its release, even more information – along with insider details – has come to light. Check out these behind-the-scenes details about Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and life at the G.W. Zoo that are sure to shock you.
The Series’ Directors Refused to Pet Any Tiger Cubs Because They Were Horrified by Joe’s Practices
One of the central pieces of Tiger King is the tigers themselves – and, more specifically, tiger cubs. Joe Exotic makes a lot of his money by allowing visitors to the G.W. Zoo to pet tiger cubs, a practice that’s also common at his rival Doc Antle’s zoo. These rogue zookeepers can charge visitors to enter the zoo, then make even more by charging for tiger cub experiences and photos.
Unfortunately, the petting, cuddling, and photo ops that Tiger King directors witnessed firsthand while filming weren’t as pleasant as they seemed. In an interview with the L.A. Times, directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin said that they saw baby tigers being subjected to “abject cruelty” and that the handling was “disturbing.”
So, in response to what they witnessed, the series’ directors refused to cuddle or participate in any photo ops themselves.
Joe Exotic Tried to Profit Off His Husband Travis’s Death
One of the most shocking and tragic moments in Tiger King was the death of Joe Exotic’s husband Travis Maldonado. While some mystery and confusion still surround the events of Maldonado’s sudden death, it seemed like Joe was genuinely mourning the loss of his husband.
Joe Exotic even set up a charity in Maldonado’s name: the Travis Maldonado Foundation. Joe claimed that this foundation would provide “no-cost resources for those struggling with meth addiction and gun-safety education.” However, that charity is a complete lie.
Joe merely set up a slush fund for himself. The Travis Maldonado Foundation links donations to the United States Zoological Association – which is a “fund” that Joe uses himself. All of the money donated in honor of Maldonado went directly in Joe Exotic’s pockets.