42 animals rescued from ‘Tiger King’ zoo in Oklahoma now at sanctuary in Colorado

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KEENESBURG, Colo. (KDVR) — If you are one of the millions fascinated by the wild Netflix documentary, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” you may be wondering what happened to the animals from the roadside zoo in rural Oklahoma. Dozens of them were rescued and brought to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.

Thirty-nine tigers and three black bears from Joe Exotic’s G.W. Zoo were brought to the sanctuary in Weld County.

Becca Miceli is chief science and animal welfare officer at The Wild Animal Sanctuary.

“We can’t put these animals back in the wild, so we are giving them as much open space and as much freedom as they can possibly have,” she said.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary rescued the animals 2017, but didn’t publicize it because of ongoing litigation. But now, with the wildly popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” they are able to show the difference they are making.

Miceli described the conditions at the G.W. Zoo when the animals were rescued: “Smaller cages, lots animals in confined space, lots of animals acted stressed, showed psychological distress these animals can endure in facilities where they are forced to be out on exhibit or forced to pose for pictures.”

The animals are now in a much better place. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is nearly 700 acres. It also has more than 10,000 acres in southern Colorado for a Wild Animal Refuge.

“Here, we specialize in large carnivores, we individualize our care to each animal. Everybody’s been pretty happy, healthy, doing pretty well. They had 2-year mark recently, 2 years of being here, which is great. Some of the kiddos that came from the facility, it was a harder transition, some had some of the psychological stress that we can see a lot of times on rescues. Some had nutritional deficiencies, some had dental issues, orthopedic issues,” Miceli said.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary has been around for nearly 40 years. It currently has 550 animals. Its main mission is education and they hope Joe Exotic and the wild cast of characters from the “Tiger King” documentary will show people a new appreciation for what they are doing. 

“I’d like the world to know through the popularity of this documentary that these animals endure a lot. There are animals all the time that need our help, we want to be able to say ‘yes’ to. We want them to give them this life. This tiger recognizes everything in his life will be provided for him, hopefully, now. He doesn’t have to do anything to get it. He doesn’t have to sit still on a chain, he doesn’t have to sit there while someone pokes or prods at him. He just gets to be as much of a tiger as he can. I think one of the best things you can see in this industry when you’re working next to these animals, trying to make their lives better, is that: that’s joy, happiness, freedom,” Miceli said.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary is not open to the public right now because of the stay-at-home order, but it depends on donations to help care for the animals. If you would like to help, visit the sanctuary’s website.

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