A little bit about me that you might not know: I’m very interested in true crime. Always have been (fun fact: when I entered college I was actually pursuing chemistry in hopes of one day becoming a medical examiner). Somethings you probably know about me: I love animals and I’ve worked in a zoo for almost 4 years. So, when I was first introduced to Joe Exotic via the podcast Over My Dead Body, I was so intrigued. Thus, when I saw Netflix was doing a series on him and all the absolute insanity that surrounds Joe and the GW Zoo, I was very excited.
I have now finished Tiger King and I mostly enjoyed it, but there’s something I think we need to talk about and that’s “Big Cat Rescue,” or BCR, which is run by Carole Baskin. For those unacquainted with the story *STOP HERE IF YOU INTEND TO WATCH* Carole is the woman who Joe Exotic is imprisoned for putting a hit out on. She is still very much alive and continues to run her cat “sanctuary.” Carole is quick to admit that she has a shady past that involves cub petting, purchasing, and a number of sketchy relationships. She’s also quick to publicly apologize for this and claims she is working tirelessly now to negate the harm this industry has done. My issue with Carole is not her past; we are human and we make mistakes, I get that. My issue with BCR’s cofounder is the way she talks about (and compares herself to) zoos.
Based on the information Carole has on her website and the things she says in the docuseries, I’m borderline convinced Carole Baskin has never, ever, ever, EVER visited an accredited zoo. I recognize that roadside zoos still exist and are cruel and disgusting, but she groups all zoos together in a way that simply makes no sense. She talks about zoos “faking” their conservation work and states many times that ‘cats born in cages are doomed to die in cages.’ She could not be more misinformed. She clearly has no grasp the incredible amount of work that goes into zoos. This lack of understanding is further evidenced by the conditions under which her animals have been (and arguably still are) kept. Zoos are a place of priceless species survival work and conservation, a place for the public to see what scientists are begging them to care about. Zoos are a way of increasing scientific literacy! They are incredibly important.
Watching “Tiger King” has made me decide that I’d actually like to do a few more pieces on misconceptions people have about zoos, which is where y’all come in. Either through the contact form, my direct email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or my social media accounts (@cmlovesscience), I’d love to collect information about what y’all hear about zoos (can be positive or negative, but I’m more interested in dispelling rumors, ATM).
Before I sign off, I just want to clarify that I do not support Joe Exotic or Doc (another animal collector featured in the film), all I’m saying is that Carole Baskin does not have a strong leg to stand on in her fight against people like them. The crimes committed by Joe Exotic are disgusting and despicable and I wish the series had been less sensationalist about what he has done.
Anyways, I’m looking forward to hearing what you all have to say and to starting on this mini project!