Renowned exotic animal park stays open despite coronavirus outbreak

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WYNNEWOOD, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma wildlife park featured in the now-famous ‘Tiger King’ documentary is currently open to visitors as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“They have been a little bit more busy over there, couples you know they get out and go in,” said Steve Bowen of Wynnewood.

Neighbors say traffic is brisk in and out of the GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood.

Some say it’s thanks to the huge success of the current Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” a show that tells the story of former park owner, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic who is still serving time for the murder-for-hire plot against a fellow big cat owner.

The new management said they are not doing interviews because they don’t trust a lot of the media saying there are “too many two-faced reporters” and that “we spent 200 hours with the Netflix producers kissing our butts to have them try to portray us as bad people.”

They also told us the new park location, down in Thackerville, mentioned in the show, is close to being done.

Park owners says they are open for business right now.

That doesn’t sit well with some while the world is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think they should close them. They outta be able to take care of their animals but they don’t need people going in and out,” said Bowen.

KFOR asked park management if they fit the governor’s criteria for essential services.

They said, “Ask the governor.”

So we did.

The Governor’s office directed News 4 to the Department of Commerce and they said:

“For specific information about the implementation of the Executive Order, the owners of GW Exotic Zoo can look at the list of NAICS codes on and see if they qualify as an essential service.  The Department of Commerce has no knowledge of their NAICS code.
Nothing in the EO prohibits the care of animals, but there are several limits on the public use of congregational locations. 
The owners of GW Exotic Zoo will need to determine if they qualify under the EO and if they do, they are encouraged to implement policies to keep their employees and the general public safe during this time of emergency.”

An unexpected winner in all this is Seth Wadley Ford in Pauls Valley.

“Hats are just flying left and right. We have put them online- people from everywhere are wanting these hats,” said Joe Izzy, Seth Wadley General Sales Manager.

Joe Exotic wears a Seth Wadley hat through most of the show.

The car dealership said they never paid him to wear the hats but now they are seeing online traffic from 79 different countries.

“So the first hat that we did get ordered was Jerod Goff, he is the quarterback for the (LA) Rams,” said Izzy.

Click here to view available hats.

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