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|“||I’m Joe Exotic, otherwise known as the Tiger King, the gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.||„|
|~ Joe Exotic introducing himself in Tiger King.|
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel; born March 5, 1963), better known as Joe Exotic, is an American former zoo operator and convicted felon. The former owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (a.k.a. G. W. Zoo) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, Maldonado-Passage had claimed to be the most prolific breeder of tigers in the United States. He twice unsuccessfully ran for public office, first for President of the United States in 2016 as an independent, and then for Governor of Oklahoma in 2018 as a Libertarian.
Maldonado-Passage is known for his charismatic, unfiltered personality.
In 2019, Maldonado-Passage was convicted on 17 federal charges of animal abuse (eight violations of the Lacey Act and nine of the Endangered Species Act) and two counts of murder for hire, for a plot to kill Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskin. He is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison. In 2020, Netflix released a eight-part documentary, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, focused on Maldonado-Passage, his zoo, and his feud with Baskin.
Between February and June 2006, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had an investigator work as an employee. PETA's undercover investigator made footage which the group released. PETA alleged that animals were starved and "routinely hit, punched, kicked, sprayed with cold water, and struck with rakes and shovels." In 2012, the Humane Society of the United States released video taken by an undercover investigator. It included footage of a tiger being dragged across gravel, big cats being hit and Exotic instructing staff to smack cubs to make them walk. HSUS claimed that 5 tigers died during their investigation, one of which did not receive veterinary care. In May 2014, the USDA cited the park for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. According to officials, an injured bear's wound reopened and an employee attempted to stitch it. The injury subsequently worsened and the bear was euthanized.
Feeding big cats was a large expense. Exotic would shoot donated horses then feed them to the tigers.
On October 6, 2017, Exotic's husband, Travis Maldonado, fatally shot himself in the head. The shooting occurred while the zoo was open. The Garvin County Sheriff's office ruled that the shooting was accidental.
Joe Exotic is openly gay. He has referred to numerous partners as his husbands despite not being legally married. His first known partner was Brian Rhyne, who died of complications from HIV in 2001. The following year, he started a relationship with J. C. Hartpence, an event manager who aided Joe Exotic with his traveling animal show. In mid-2003, John Finlay was hired as an employee of the G. W. Zoo, and within a month, had begun a relationship with Schreibvogel. By this point, the relationship between Joe Exotic and Hartpence had deteriorated, due to drug and alcohol addiction. It finally ended after Joe Exotic threatened to kill Hartpence and feed his remains to the zoo's largest tiger, and when Hartpence woke Schreibvogel up by putting a gun to his head, leading to his arrest by the local authorities. Hartpence was later convicted for child molestation and first-degree murder
Travis Maldonado arrived at the zoo in December 2014, and just like Finlay, began a relationship with Schreibvogel within a month. Schreibvogel, Maldonado and Finlay were unofficially married in early 2014. Joe Exotic and Finlay eventually fell out, and following an incident in the zoo's back parking lot, Finlay was arrested and charged with assault and battery. In 2015, Joe Exotic legally wed Travis Maldonado, and his legal name became Joseph Maldonado. As revealed in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, both John Finlay and Travis Maldonado were heterosexual, and both had affairs; John Finlay had impregnated the zoo's receptionist, which was one of the reasons leading to his departure, and Travis Maldonado was regularly having sex with multiple women on the grounds of the zoo. On October 6, 2017, Travis Maldonado died from suicide involving a firearm, which occurred at the zoo, in front of Joe Exotic's campaign manager. Travis Killed himself to "escape" from his husband's cruelty. On December 11, 2017, Joe Exotic married Dillon Passage; one of the witnesses was Travis Maldonado's mother. Upon his marriage to Passage, Joe Exotic's legal surname became Maldonado-Passage.
Friends and Enemies
- John Reinke
- John Finlay (until he left Joe for a woman)
- Dillon Passage
- Kelci Saffery
- Rick Kirkham
- Erik Kowie
- Carole Baskin (Arch-Nemesis)
- Travis Maldonado
- Jeff Lowe
- Howard Baskin
- Allen Grover
- Joshua Dial
- Doc Antle
- James Garretson