Joe Exotic killed over 100 tigers and would hit cubs if they misbehaved, reveals head zookeeper

Joe Exotic killed over 100 tigers and would hit cubs if they misbehaved, reveals head zookeeper

A former employee of Joe Exotic has revealed that the 57-year-old killed over 100 tigers, would hit cubs if they misbehaved, and feared most of his big cats while running the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. Erik Cowie, the head zookeeper at the animal park -- which is being run by a different owner -- said that the tigers hated Exotic so much that "several of the big cats would have eaten him alive if given the chance."

“Joe would often brag about being in a cage with 16 tigers, but in reality, it was more like two or three of them. I would take the mean ones out of the cage, the cats who didn't like him,” Cowie told DailyMailTV.


He added, “There was a liger and we used to use Joe as bait in order to get her out of its cage, this big cat would try to attack Joe every time she saw him.” Liger is a hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger.

Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, is the central character of Netflix’s hit docuseries ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’. He is currently serving a 22-year sentence for plotting to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin in 2017 and for more than a dozen wildlife violations, including killing five tigers.


However, in reality, he killed more than 100 tigers, according to Cowie.

He also recalled how Exotic was excited after killing five big cats to make space for other animals at the zoo as he told him, “Damn, Erik if I only knew it was going to be that easy.”

Cowie also shared that once Exotic killed a 27-year-old Siberian tiger named 'Cuddles' just because he was getting old. And once the central character of the Netflix original killed eight tigers in a single day. “They euthanized them and had a veterinarian sign off on them with excuses like they were too old, sick, etc. Most of the time a veterinarian wasn't even around when things like that would happen, but he would write it down on a log, so he could be covered in case government inspectors wanted to check his books,” he alleged.

Cowie said Exotic was never emotionally attached to the animals as he didn't spend enough time with them "to truly bond with them", and that towards the end, he was too busy campaigning for governor or president.

"Joe only cared about them in a monetary way," Cowie said, while mentioning a particular lion that used to hate Exotic so much it "would try to chew through the cage to get at him."


“I learned a lot from Joe, mostly on not what to do,” he added.

In his interview, Cowie also disclosed that Exotic would hit cubs if they misbehaved with the zoo guests. “For one reason or another, a cub would become unruly so Joe would take the baby cub out of view of the people at the zoo and pop the cub in the nose and bring it back out,” he said, adding that this ruthless behavior made his job more difficult. “I then had to deal with a baby cub who had just been popped in the nose and then make sure it wouldn't act up and bite some older women or child,” he said.

Cowie said that Exotic tried to keep his inumane behavior a secret by never allowing zoo guests to bring cameras. He had ordered his employees to check the guests’ belts to ensure they were not carrying any hidden camera as he feared PETA would send in a spy to get evidence against him.

“These animals trusted me and I let some of them down, for that I'll never forget,” Cowie said, adding he regrets not revealing the truth earlier about Exotic killing over 100 cats.


“I love these animals dude. I'd sooner put myself under a bus than leave these animals. These animals are my children. They are the only reason why I'm out here. I'm just a guy who picks up poop with his hands and I'm good at cutting up cows to feed to the tigers,” said Cowie, who has been working at the park for eight years and wants to continue doing so.

However, his body is not cooperating with him in doing his dream job. “It's a young man's job, I'm old and my body has suffered because of it,” Cowie explained.

He also shared the since Exotic is not anymore the owner of the zoo, animals are doing well. The Oklahoma zoo, which has currently 117 tigers, is now taken care of by a new owner, Jeff Lowe.


Share this article:  Joe Exotic killed tiger king hit cubs if they misbehaved erik cowie head zookeeper netflix