‘Tiger King’ star, Joe Exotic has ties to central Illinois


SMITHFIELD, Ill. (WYZZ) — Tiger King is Netflix’s hit show people can’t stop talking about and its main star, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (AKA Joe Exotic) has ties to central Illinois.

Brown’s Oakridge Zoo in Smithfield has traded and known Joe Exotic for 15 years. Heidi Brown says animals they received from Joe always seemed in good health.

“I can tell you without a doubt that Joe cared for his animals and when we did any business with him, his facility was always clean and his animals looked healthy and happy. And I know for a fact he loved them, you can’t fake that,” Brown said.

Brown says her family’s zoo and other zoos that keep big cats in captivity are ensuring these animals live a good life and prevent extinction.

“The vast majority of zoos like ours are only trying to do their part to ensure that future generations are afforded the opportunity to view these creatures and that their gene pool continues on,” Brown said.

Brown says by trading, it prevents inbreeding of animals and makes the genes stronger. She adds that like many other things there is always a differing opinion of what is and isn’t right.

Exotic and the zoo last traded two breeder cats in exchange for two cubs back in 2014. The zoo currently has three tigers and still has the animals formerly owned by Joe Exotic.

Exotic is currently serving 22 years in a federal prison on murder for hire and animal abuse charges.

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