“This will be the event of the year for animal welfare. Thousands of supporters and people will be joining from all over the world to help end the Captive Wildlife Crisis and support the animals” Derek McCormick, Marketing Manager (TWAS)
McCormick was speaking in advance of November 4th’s video event in which Pearl the Tiger and many animals removed from Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park were shown transitioning from lives that resulted in numerous animal abuse charges to lives in property owned by The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) which owns 10,000 acres in Colorado. The animals will roam free in large enclosures with minimal human contact, according to TWAS.
For his part, TWAS executive director Pat Craig said the video event and the rescue were one of the “most special” events in TWAS 42 year history. That history has seen TWAS grow from the 789 acre TWAS main campus to include a 41 acre Wild Animal Sanctuary Texas in Boyd, Texas and the 9,684 acre Wild Animal Refuge in Springfield, Colorado. The 789 acre facility has 1.5 miles of elevated walkways and allows visitors. The others do not.
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage called himself “Joe Exotic” or the “Tiger King.” He owned his Greater Wynnewood facility for nearly twenty years until it was shut down following a Netflix series about events leading to his conviction and sentencing.
For his part Passage has claimed he was targeted, lied about and is a victim of persecution. In a series of tweets he said “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere” and says the truth will come out with the release of a documentary “Tiger King 2” and the release of a book Nov. 23rd. He says that opinions will change following these releases. He has been convicted in federal court of an attempted murder for hire, and animal abuse and sentenced to prison. The animals he used to own which now are at TWAS were removed in batches beginning in December, 2017 when 39 tigers and 3 bears were removed from Exotic’s care. Subsequently, 3 lions. 11 wolves, 3 tigers and more bears were removed as per court orders. The next group contained 14 lions, tigers and hybrid crosses. In January 2021 14 more tigers were taken in. On May 6 a liger (lion-tiger cross) was transferred and five other cats went to other sanctuaries. On May 17 a further 35 lions tigers and hybrids came out of Greater Wynnewood.
During his legal troubles Joe Exotic had transferred ownership. The new owners also lost their licenses because they were unable to improve the conditions at the zoo. In August 2021, 14 more animals were taken including 1 kinkajou ( a tropical rainforest mammal related to raccoons) bobcats and caracals TWAS is using the spotlight from the rescues and the Joe Exotic case to shine a harsh light on the captive wild animal trade in which animals are captured, sold and kept in substandard condition for amusement or profit. It is a world wide trade and the scope is staggering. Thousands more tigers are kept privately (outside of zoos) in the United
States than exist in the wild. Often leading to this. The situation is grave, according to wildlife experts. Kent Drotar, director of publicity for TWAS spoke in an interview:
“According to Drotar, about 80% of the sanctuary’s residents, among them lions, jaguars, tigers, wolves, bears, ostriches and more, arrive there after being confiscated by law enforcement agencies. Often this is by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which seize abused and/or illegally-owned wild animals and then place those animals in appropriate sanctuaries once the legal proceedings connected to the animal’s seizure are complete.”
Numerous bona fide sanctuaries exist in the US and each rescues injured, abused or neglected wildlife caught up in human accidents or misbehavior.