It’s incredible to see how Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” exploded in American pop culture.
While Americans were under stay-at-home orders, Netflix dropped one of the most jaw-dropping inside-looks into the competitive rivalry among big cat enthusiasts and illuminated the pros and cons of America’s private zoo industry.
Here’s your guide to the private zoos featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King.”
Did you hear about the explosive revelations regarding Netflix’s “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” just in the last week alone?
Two major things happened:
One – Carole Baskin was awarded Joe Exotic’s Oklahoma zoo as part of a civil judgment while he serves the remainder of his sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to murder Baskin.
And two – a Florida police sheriff confirmed that Baskin’s missing husband’s Will & Testament was “100% a forgery.”
The latter is an explosive twist. The children of Baskin’s presumably deceased husband revealed in the docuseries that Baskin forged their father’s will and cut them out of it.
Unfortunately, Baskin will escape any sort of criminal investigation because the statute of limitations is already up considering her husband disappeared in 1997 and wasn’t declared officially dead until 2002 – the five year in absentia standard.
So not only does Baskin escape prosecution for the alleged doctoring of her former husband’s will, but she also gets Joe Exotic’s zoo? Is Baskin not the luckiest person alive?
These post-documentary revelations turn out to be better than the ones actually revealed in the docuseries, which is undeniably incredulous.
Here’s how the private zoos depicted in “Tiger King” fare.
Big Cat Rescue – Tampa Bay, Florida
This is Carole Baskin’s “animal sanctuary.” One thing that becomes obvious in “Tiger King” is that Baskin undeniably took better care of her exotic cats than Joe Exotic.
Big Cat Rescue’s website is pretty much self-promotion with the whole front page littered with pictures of Baskin, calling attention to her sanctuary zoo being featured on “CNN, Animal Planet, Discovery…” The list goes on.
If you don’t find her page already overwhelmingly narcissistic, there’s actually a sub-section entitled, “My Superpower is: I Can See The Future.”
The opening sentence is obnoxiously arrogant saying, “When confronted with an issue, I don’t just see the problem; I see it in sort of a split screen in my head. On the left is what I have. On the right is what I want. That clarity makes it possible for me to make quick decisions about what needs to be done right now and I can see the steps needed to get to what I want.”
This sentence operates under the guise that you can’t do what she does.
So to get a true sense of Big Cat Rescue, don’t visit the website full of shameless self-promotion and obvious propaganda and bias – read the abysmal reviews.
Just last week, one reviewer on TripAdvisor gave it one star saying, “Everything was a horrible [money-making] machine. The cats didn’t look happy and it is run down stay away.”
Another reviewer in May also gave it one star and added, “I cannot recommend this place to anybody. The whole place smells terrible, there’s long grass growing where there shouldn’t be, the cats don’t seem as happy as they should be, the cages are too small.. not a nice place. If I could rate lower than 1 star I would.”
Zoological Wildlife Foundation – Miami, Florida
You may remember Mario Tabraue from “Tiger King.” Unlike Joe Exotic, Tabraue is not currently incarcerated, but his history strongly suggests he probably should still be. In 1989, Tabraue was convicted of being the drug kingpin of a $75 million dollar operation in south Florida.
Tabraue was ultimately sentenced to 100 years behind bars, but was released in 2000 after spending just shy of a dozen years in prison – only 10% of his sentence.
But despite Tabraue’s checkered history, his Zoological Wildlife Foundation places at #3 for “things to do in Miami” out of 334 by TripAdvisor. And the reviews are stellar.
One reviewer wrote in May, “A magical, beautiful animal sanctuary. Especially loved the animal and cub encounters. A lovely experience.”
Another reviewer posted pictures of herself with lion cubs and wrote, “One of the most magical moments of my life! We got to spend a half hour with a 5 week old lion cub. It was her first encounter ever! Her parents live onsite at the zoo. So cute so cuddly and the employee in the room with us was very laid back and sweet. Will definitely go again! This time when we don’t have to wear gloves and a mask! (You can’t take the gloves off at any point, but you can pull the mask down for pictures).”
They also apparently do private tours for families.
All in all, the Zoological Wildlife Foundation is a must-see attraction.
Myrtle Beach Safari – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach Safari is owned by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who recently described Netflix’s “Tiger King” as a “salacious, outrageous ride,” while also adding it’s “not a ‘documentary.’”
Initially, Antle believed the filmmakers were creating a documentary primarily focusing on conservation efforts for big cats – and not anything informative of his personal life.
Antle claims he met with the filmmakers “five or six” times about how the documentary would focus on, “[The] endless portrayal of a program that he was doing with us was purely about a wildlife conservation show about our work that we’re doing in Sumatra, Africa to save endangered species there.”
In fact, most of the people depicted in the documentary thought it would be similar to “Black Fish,” which was about the mistreatment of mammals at Sea World.
But despite the obvious discrepancies over the docuseries’ messages and tone, how does Antle’s zoo fare, you might ask?
It’s about right on par with the Zoological Wildlife Foundation – meaning people love it.
One reviewer described Myrtle Beach Safari as a “once in a lifetime” experience.
A May reviewer claimed, “We really enjoyed the atmosphere & everyone’s energy. From the staff & the animals they do an excellent job making you feel welcome to their home! It was definitely an experience of a lifetime. I would recommend starting off with the day safari tour & work your way towards the night safari. It is worth it.”
Another recent reviewer wrote, “A place like no other. Went down during the tail end of Covid because there was not as many visitors at that time and it worked out great. Right from the beginning of the tour you are in awe. Was able to see the largest liger in the world up close. Tigers running after “bait” on a pulley so these tigers are moving as fast as 45 mph in three steps, just amazing. Sat down and was treated with exotic animal after exotic animal to pet and play with. Tigers, black leopard, wolf puppies were some of the animals.”
Even amid global chaos, Myrtle Beach Safari is making their visitors happy.
You probably wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that Baskin’s Big Cat Sanctuary would rate so poorly would you? And now that she’s taking over Joe Exotic’s zoo, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone will go visit.