WYNNEWOOD, Okla. (KFOR) – The controversial Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, once owned by self-proclaimed ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic, has closed to the public after the USDA suspended current zoo proprietor Jeff Lowe’s exhibitor license.
The USDA website shows that Lowe’s exhibitor license was suspended on Monday, Aug. 17.
Lowe posted a statement on the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park Facebook page, Tuesday evening, announcing that his license was suspended and that he is closing the zoo.
He said the USDA suspended his license for 21 days over what he described as a “litany of falsehoods.” He also accused the USDA of folding to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights organization commonly referred to as PETA.
“Jeff Lowe’s license has been suspended, a permanent revocation should be next, and his tiger-terrorizing days may soon be over. PETA looks forward to seeing every one of the long-suffering animals at the G.W. Zoo be transferred to an appropriate facility where it won’t take federal intervention for a sick cat to receive veterinary care,” PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet.
“Rest assured that all the animals will continue to have excellent care, and consequently will no longer be subject to USDA inspections or PETA spies,” Lowe said. “Our new park will, at least for the foreseeable future, be a private film set for Tiger King related television content for cable and streaming services.”
A district court in Indiana recently ordered Lowe to turn over veterinary records of lions that were allegedly not being treated properly at the zoo.
Garvin County Sheriff’s Office deputies and USDA officials began investigating the zoo after receiving a formal report that included photos showing a lion with its ears covered in flies and another with the tips of its ears covered in blood.
PETA officials said the photos showed that the lions were suffering from ‘flystrike’, a condition where flies, usually drawn to uncleared animal waste, bit other animals and laid eggs on them. Then, the hatched maggots eat away at the skin.
Greater Wynnewood Exotic Park, also known as the G.W. Zoo, was formerly owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who is famously known as Joe Exotic. Maldonado-Passage also gave himself the moniker ‘Tiger King’.
Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for trying to hire someone to murder animal rights activist Carole Baskin, who owns Big Cat Animal Rescue.
Lowe took ownership of the G.W. Zoo from Maldonado-Passage, but a June 1 court decision granted Baskin ownership of the Garvin County land that the zoo is located on. Judge Scott Palk ordered the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park to vacate the property within 120 days and hand over control to Big Cat Rescue Corp.
Maldonado-Passage’s downfall, including the drama between Maldonado-Passage, Baskin and Lowe, was documented in the popular Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’.
Lowe’s entire statement on the zoo’s closure is as follows:
“The Tiger King phenomenon has definitely changed our lives in many ways. It has brought us more attention than any human deserves. Good and bad. It has, and probably will continue to make us a target of every nutjob and animal rights loon in the World, but we are prepared.
It has also provided us with an unfathomable source of income. Income that will guarantee the long term care of our animals and allow us to be very selective going forward.
As of today, we have decided to close the old zoo effective immediately.
Do the the permanent closure of the Wynnewood Zoo, I’m forfeiting my USDA exhibitors license.
The very agency that has given my facility five consecutive perfect inspections, has now folded to the pressures of PETA and continue to make false accusations against me.
Suspiciously, less than 24 hours after I contacted the USDA to voluntarily forfeit my license, they notify me that they are suspending my license for 21 days for a litany of falsehoods.
In the State of Oklahoma, exotic animal ownership is perfectly legal.
Rest assured that all the animals will continue to have excellent care, and consequently will no longer be subject to USDA inspections or PETA spies.
Our new park will, at least for the foreseeable future, be a private film set for Tiger King related television content for cable and streaming services.
This was in fact a decision that we made more than a month ago and was the huge news that we spoke about on Facebook a couple weeks ago.
So, thanks to all the people who have visited the Wynnewood Zoo over the years! We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.
Effective immediately, we are closed to the public!”Jeff Lowe, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park
The USDA sent KFOR the following statement:
On August 17, USDA’s Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) suspended the exhibitor license for Jeff Lowe, owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, for 21 days. The facility is closed, and Lowe may not conduct regulated activity during the suspension. After the 21-day suspension, APHIS will evaluate the status of the animals at the facility and determine next steps.