Hundreds of Tiger King fans crowd Joe Exotic’s zoo after coronavirus shutdown with a flagrant disregard for social distancing
Bare-faced crowds of Oklahoma residents and Americans from all around the country spilt into Tiger King Park, formally the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.
Organisers re-opened the roadside zoo so as long as staff and visitors complied with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s sanitation and social distancing protocols.
Yet, photographs seen by the Daily Mail show a vastly different scene. One where clusters of visitors are huddling together, hands bee-lining to pat big cats all the while not wearing face masks.
Tiger King stars Jeff Lowe and Erik Cowie get up close with visitors at park re-opening.
Moreover, even park workers appeared to neglect safety measures.
Both head zookeeper Erik Cowie and the zoo’s new owner Jeff Lowe, according to photographs, mingle with guests without protection.
The publication claimed Cowie was showing off tiger cubs to frenzied zoo-goers, while Lowe and his wife Lauren are shown greeting guests as they entered the park.
Indeed, the park even shared one of the photographs supplied to the Daily Mail – replete with the publication’s watermark – on their Instagram stories Wednesday, encouraging viewers to “go visit the animals in Wynnewood!”
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Seemingly in perfect parallel, the popularity of the park erupted just as the coronavirus pandemic crept into the US. As a result, the park was shuttered in early April.
But as Oklahoma cautiously relaxes its state-mandated closures of non-essential businesses, park owners lept at the chance to capitalise on the series’ success.
People thronged the park as they tightly queued for their chance to pet cubs and catch the lions and tigers, with adults and children standing shoulder-to-shoulder in several instances.
Exotic, the park’s former owner, is currently serving his 22-yearslong prison sentence in federal jail.
After a feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin curdled into a plot to do violence, he was convicted in 2019 with two counts of murder-for-hire and a slew of charges around the animals he kept.