'Tiger King' Zoo Described as 'Sad' and 'Not Taken Care of' by Recent Visitor

The Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Garvin County, Oklahoma is a shell of its former self, according to a recent visitor. The zoo was once owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, and has since gained national attention thanks to Netflix's documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. As viewers saw, the zoo was taken over by Jeff Lowe, who is still managing it until he has to leave due to a court order transferring ownership to Carole Baskin.

Will Mayo stopped by the zoo on a recent road trip and shared photos of the animals he saw with Insider. Mayo does not consider himself an animal activist, but he wanted to provide a new look at the G.W. Zoo prominently featured in Tiger King. He arrived at the zoo at about noontime and noticed very few visitors, likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said visitors had to buy a ticket over the phone and they could not sell any merchandise. They were giving away water though.

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"They were trying to be compliant with current rules and the current environment, which was the first interesting observation; I would have expected it to not be that," Mayo explained to the site. "People were wearing masks and stuff like that. I was assuming that everything would be a free for all, which it wasn't." Once inside though, he was surprised again, but not by anything good.

Mayo described the zoo as an "abandoned house's overgrown backyard," adding that none of the paths there clear. "It's pretty desolate and as you can see in one of my photos, they had a little pond but it was totally dried up and there was no water in it," Mayo said. "Everything just looked shriveled and dry and not taken care of." He remembered seeing a fox who "just looked so sad and so drained and so tired." He said the animal was leaning against a fence "because it almost seemed like it didn't even have the energy to walk around."

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Lowe's wife Lauren Lowe responded to Mayo's comments, telling Insider that their animals are "in excellent health and our regular inspections by the USDA and Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife make no such findings of neglect." She suggested that an animal "might" look bored in the "small cages that Joe Exotic built," so they are working on creating "massive enclosures" when Lowe builds "the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen" in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

Although the Lowes say they are taking care of the animals, federal officials recently opened an investigation into the park after pictures allegedly showing lions neglected, injured, and with bugs in their ears. PETA published the photos, which it received from a whistleblower. The Garvin County Sheriff's Office, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have also visited the zoo to investigate similar complaints.