Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park

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Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park
Logo for the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.png
Date opened1999 (1999)
Date closed2020
LocationWynnewood, Oklahoma
Coordinates34°37′32″N 97°12′40″W / 34.62556°N 97.21111°W / 34.62556; -97.21111Coordinates: 34°37′32″N 97°12′40″W / 34.62556°N 97.21111°W / 34.62556; -97.21111
Land area16 acres (6.5 ha)
No. of animals700
No. of species50

The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which is sometimes called the G.W. Zoo and formerly the Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park,[1] was an animal park displaying predominantly tigers and other big cats in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.


Tiliger at the G. W. Zoo, pictured in 2013

The park is situated on 16 acres (6.5 ha) and began as a shelter for endangered and exotic species of animals. The park has been home to over 50 species of animals and 200 big cats, such as tigers, lions, puma, ligers and tigons. The Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park was established in 1999 by Joe Exotic and dedicated to the memory of his brother Garold Wayne Schreibvogel, who had died in a car crash in 1997.[1][2] The park has been known by multiple names over the years, including "G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation"[3] and "The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation".[4]

In 2010, G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation created Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group, Inc.[5] Big Cat Rescue Corp.,[6] run by Carole Baskin, a critic of the park's practices,[7][8][9][10] filed suit against them, claiming the name and logo similarities were used to damage their reputation and cause confusion.[11] The defendants counter-claimed, stating that Big Cat Rescue had caused them financial loss. In February 2013, a judge rejected the counter-claim and Exotic agreed to a consent decree of approximately 1 million dollars.[12] The park filed for bankruptcy and remained open to the public.[11] A new park, The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation, was incorporated shortly after the suit.[4] The entity G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation was dissolved and its assets, but not liabilities, were transferred to The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation. Big Cat Rescue again filed suit on the premise that the new park was a successor to the first park and had the same personnel, income, assets, property, and overall business. In 2016, The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation was determined liable and ordered to pay $1,028,000 USD and interest.[13]

In 2011, the park was issued a rendering facility license by the State of Oklahoma.[14]

In 2016, Jeff Lowe purchased the park and reopened it under the name "Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park LLC".[15] Lowe, a businessman, had previously been convicted of mail fraud.[16][17]

In 2019, Jeff Lowe announced plans to close the park in Wynnewood and move the animals to a new location near Thackerville, Oklahoma.[8]

The park was renamed "Tiger King Park" and was reopened in early May 2020 after a brief closure during the COVID-19 pandemic.[18][19]

In May 2020, federal judge Scott Palk of the Western District Court of Oklahoma gave ownership of the park to Baskin after ruling that Exotic fraudulently transferred ownership to his mother to avoid paying debts incurred as a result of Baskin's suit. The judge ordered Lowe to vacate the park within 120 days. All animals must be removed from the property as well. After Lowe's license's suspension and departure, Baskin decided to sell the property, on the condition that it never be used as an exotic zoo or a tourist attraction.[20][21]


Between February and June 2006, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization, investigated the park by having someone work at the park as an employee and obtain video footage of the animals and conditions, which PETA published. PETA alleged that animals were starved and "routinely hit, punched, kicked, sprayed with cold water, and struck with rakes and shovels."[22][23] In 2011, the park's director filed a police report alleging that the employee illegally obtained access to the director's computer and copied files.[24]

In 2012, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released a report from an undercover investigation. HSUS claimed that five tigers died during the period of their investigation, one of which did not receive veterinary care.[25][26][27]

In May 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture cited the park for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. According to officials, an injured bear's wound reopened after a stitching, and an employee attempted to re-stitch it. The injury subsequently worsened and the bear was euthanized.[28]

Large animals, including horses, were sometimes donated to the park and would be killed to feed the big cats.[1]

On October 6, 2017, Joe Exotic's husband, Travis Maldonado, fatally shot himself in the head. The shooting occurred in the business office while the park was open. The Garvin County Sheriff's office ruled that the shooting was accidental.[29][30]

In September 2018, Exotic was indicted by a federal grand jury, and arrested by the FBI, for attempting to hire a hitman to murder Carole Baskin, chief executive officer of Tampa animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue.[31][32] On April 2, 2019, following a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Exotic was convicted of 19 counts: two counts of murder-for-hire, eight violations of the Lacey Act and nine of the Endangered Species Act.[8][32] On January 22, 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison.[9]


The 2020 Netflix original documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness was centered on Joe Exotic.[33][34] The park received thousands of visitors following the release of the documentary. However, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt required that all non-essential businesses close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 31, 2020, the Garvin County, Oklahoma sheriff said the park had closed to visitors in compliance with the governor's order to shut down nonessential business.[35] The park has since been reopened.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Moor, Robert (September 3, 2019). "American Animals Joe Exotic bred lions, tigers, and ligers at his roadside zoo. He was a modern Barnum who found an equally extraordinary nemesis". New York. Intelligencer. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  2. ^ Gajanan, Mahita (March 20, 2020). "The Wild Story Behind Netflix's New Docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness".
  6. ^ "BIG CAT RESCUE CORP. (2003)".
  7. ^ Williams, Sean (June 22, 2019). "Joe Exotic Built a Wild Animal Kingdom. He Was the Most Dangerous Predator of Them All".
  8. ^ a b c Clay, Nolan (April 3, 2019). "Joe Exotic found guilty in murder-for-hire case". The Oklahoman. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "'Joe Exotic' sentenced to 22 years in federal prison on murder-for-hire, wildlife charges". ABC Koco News 5. January 22, 2020. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  10. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (January 22, 2020). "Former Zookeeper Sentenced to 22 Years in Murder-for-Hire Plot". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  11. ^ a b "'Joe Exotic' ordered to pay Florida animal sanctuary $1 million". March 2, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  12. ^ "Big Cat Rescue Corp. v. Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group, Inc.; No. 8:12-CV-02381... | 20130520856| Consent Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction". Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  13. ^ "Big Cat Rescue Corp v. GW Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation; Memorandum Opinion and Order". Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  14. ^ "Rendering Licenses" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 21, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
  16. ^ Lurye, Rebecca (April 30, 2015). "Beaufort big cat owner has fraud conviction on his record".
  17. ^ "Whoops! Gifts In Kind International Distributes $14.2 Million of Donated Goods to the Wrong Place". Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Todisco, Eric (May 6, 2020). "Tiger King Fans Flock to Joe Exotic's Zoo for its Reopening After Coronavirus Shutdown". People.
  19. ^ "corpInformation".
  20. ^
  21. ^ Wilson, Colleen (June 2, 2020). "'Tiger King' nemesis wins control of former zoo in Wynnewood".
  22. ^ "G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park Investigator's Log—Neglect". People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
  23. ^ "Oklahoma Pseudo-Sanctuary: Shelter From Danger or Dangerous Shelter?". People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  24. ^ Surette, Rusty (January 11, 2011). "PETA Allegedly Paid Man To 'Spy, Download Information' From Exotic Animal Park". Retrieved July 28, 2011.
  25. ^ Armen Keteyian (May 16, 2012). "Alleged abuse at GW Memorial Park seen on tape". CBS News. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  26. ^ "'If they walk in here and take my animals away, it's going to be a small Waco':Joe Exotics pledge after being accused". Humane Society of the United States. May 16, 2012. Archived from the original on August 19, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  27. ^ "Reckless Tiger Cub Petting Zoo: The Humane Society of the United States Investigates GW Exotic Animal Park" (PDF) (PDF). Humane Society of the United States. May 22, 2012. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  28. ^ "G.W. Interactive Zoological Park under fire for alleged animal mistreatment". May 22, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  29. ^ Keeping, Juliana (October 7, 2017). "Shooting death at Wynnewood zoo under investigation". The Oklahoman. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  30. ^ "Sheriff: Oklahoma zookeeper's husband accidentally shot self". Associated Press. KXII News 12. October 10, 2017. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  31. ^ Clay, Nolan; Wallace, Josh (September 7, 2018). "Joe Exotic, former Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate, indicted, accused in murder-for-hire plot". The Oklahoman. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  32. ^ a b "Joe Exotic" Convicted of Murder-for-Hire and Violating Both the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act, United States Department of Justice (April 2, 2019).
  33. ^ "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness". Netflix. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  34. ^ Miller, Julie (March 10, 2020). "Netflix's Wild Tiger King Is Your Next True Crime TV Obsession". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  35. ^ Yuhas, Alan and Cramer, Maria (April 2, 2020). "What Happened After 'Tiger King'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 4, 2020.

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