EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KFOR) – An Arkansas-based wildlife refuge participated in the rescue of dozens of big cats from Jeff Lowe’s Tiger King Park, which was once owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, located in Eureka Springs, Ark., helped federal agents rescue 68 big cats from Tiger King Park, according to a news release issued by Turpentine Creek personnel.
Lowe was ordered by a federal judge to surrender each big cat cub in his possession as well as the cubs’ mothers to the government, which has been working with sanctuaries to find safe homes for the cats.
The judge ruled that the government could seize the cats on the merits of its claims that Jeff and Lauren Lowe “violated the Endangered Species Act, as well as the Animal Welfare Act.”
The Department of Justice said the Lowes failed to provide safe conditions, proper nutrition and timely veterinary care, which caused harm to a number of the animals and resulted in the death of two tiger cubs less than a week apart.
The Lowes had a “pattern and practice of providing substandard care” to the cats at Tiger King Park, DOJ officials said.
DOJ officials also said the Lowes endangered the animals, under the Animal Welfare Act, by not employing a qualified attending veterinarian at the park.
The big cats that remained at the park were of various age and species. They were seized after after authorities deemed the Lowes non-compliant with court orders to improve the care they were providing the animals.
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Three inspections were performed at the park since December 2020. Those inspections concluded the Lowe’s failed “to provide the animals with adequate or timely veterinary care, appropriate nutrition, and shelter that protects them from inclement weather and is of sufficient size to allow them to engage in normal behavior,” according to the news release.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge personnel made two trips to Oklahoma to help government officials rescue the big cats and brought back 13 animals. Twelve rescued big cats – including lions, tigers, a liger and a li-liger – and a jaguar are undergoing medical examinations by the refuge’s staff veterinarian.
“TCWR President Tanya Smith, who has been silently working with the DOJ and BCPSA for months to facilitate the rescue, says she is grateful the animals are safe at proper facilities now. She views the Court’s ruling and DOJ’s recent seizure as a win not only for the 68 big cats directly affected, but also for other big cats who may benefit from the precedent set by this case,” the news release states.
Maldonado-Passage is serving a prison sentence for two counts of hiring someone to murder Carole Baskin, a big cat advocate he long feuded with.