Stars of 'Tiger King' : Where Are They Now?

The real-life stars of 2020's viral hit Netflix series Tiger King still intrigue years later. Catch up with what has happened with Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and the other principals of the feline-focused streaming sensation

Tiger King
Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Photo: Netflix
01 of 09

Joseph 'Joe Exotic' Maldonado-Passage

Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In 2019, Maldonado-Passage was found guilty of paying a hitman $3,000 to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla. The hit did not go through, and he is currently serving 21 years for the attempted murder plot.

Exotic was also found guilty of killing tigers to make room for more big cats at his exotic animal park in Oklahoma.

Soon after Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness premiered on Netflix in March 2020 and drew in over 34 million unique U.S. viewers within the first 10 days of its release, the former zookeeper and country music singer filed a federal lawsuit against various government agencies, as well as his former business partner, seeking $94 million in damages.

Since shooting to stardom, Exotic was removed from isolation in prison after fans wrote to have him released to more open housing, but did not receive a pardon by former President Donald Trump. In March 2021, Joe and his husband Dillon Passage announced they were divorcing – but were not "in a hurry" to make their split legal, Joe told his attorney via email, according to TMZ, though Exotic did end up filing for divorce in March 2022 because of a relationship with fellow inmate John Graham. By June of that year, Exotic and Graham's engagement was no more and he was in a relationship with a former boyfriend named Seth.

In early November 2021, the big cat lover revealed that he had been diagnosed with "aggressive" prostate cancer.

"Right now I don't want anyone's pity and I'm sure Carole will have her own party over this," he said in a statement regarding the news.

In August 2022, Exotic said that he hoped that a new friendship 90 Day Fiancé alum Jesse Meester would eventually lead to a pardon from President Joe Biden.

02 of 09

Carole Baskin

Carole Baskin
Carole Baskin. Carole Baskin/Facebook

The original Tiger King focused on the long-standing, increasingly bitter rivalry between Baskin — who runs the exotic sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, in Citrus Park, Fla. — and Exotic, the now-imprisoned zookeeper.

Baskin's then-husband, self-made millionaire Don Lewis, vanished without a trace in August 1997, soon after the couple decided to divorce. At the time, relatives of Lewis questioned whether Baskin may have been involved and whether she may have fed his remains to her tigers.

Lewis' disappearance remains unsolved.

Baskin continues to run Big Cat Rescue with her husband, Howard Baskin, and competed on season 29 of Dancing with the Stars after Netflix fame made her a household name. The animal advocate came out as bisexual in 2020, and in September 2021 slammed Tiger King 2 as a "reality show dumpster fire."

The second season explores theories on Don Lewis' fate, with mentions of "shady characters down in Costa Rica."

In November 2021, the Baskins filed a lawsuit against Netflix, alleging breach of contract for featuring them in Tiger King 2 and its promotional trailer, despite their refusal to participate. The streamer fired back at their litigation, saying that Carole and Howard have "no claim" to the case.

Instead of tuning in to Tiger King 2, Baskin urged fans to watch her own docuseries, Carole Baskin's Cage Fight, which follows the Baskins' investigation of the mistreatment of privately owned big cats, including some that belonged to Exotic.

"I'm so excited about Carol Baskin's Cage Fight because it actually covers the work that we do every day and the work that we have been doing for the past 20 years," Baskin told PEOPLE in November 2021. "I think people who watch it are going to be enthralled."

03 of 09

Bhagavan "Doc" Antle

Tiger King
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle.

Aside from his work with animals, Antle quickly became an Internet sensation for his multiple girlfriends who help run Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina.

The founder and director of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.) returned for Tiger King 2.

In October 2020, Antle released a docuseries of his own called Tiger Kingdom: More Than a King, to share his side of the story — the same month he was indicted on wildlife trafficking charges in Virginia.

In June 2022, Antle was charged with money laundering in connection with an alleged human smuggling operation by federal prosecutors.

04 of 09

Jeff Lowe

Tiger King

Lowe stepped in to save the G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla., a.k.a. Joe's zoo, before the subsequent murder-for-hire incident. Upon hearing of Exotic's financial troubles, Lowe decided to invest in the zoo and keep some of his own animals there. After Exotic filed for bankruptcy, Lowe bought the Oklahoma zoo. When he later learned that Exotic was being investigated for the murder-for-hire plot, he became an informant and his work ultimately led to Exotic's arrest.

In June 2020, Lowe was ordered by a judge to hand over ownership of the animal park to Carole Baskin. Two months later, he announced that the G.W. Exotic Animal Park had closed permanently, transferring operations and opening the Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Okla.

The zookeeper had said he imagined the park would "be a private film set for Tiger King-related television content for cable and streaming services."

However, in May 2021, federal authorities seized 68 big cats from the property after an investigation found instances of animal mistreatment, violating the Endangered Species Act.

Two weeks later, Lowe and his wife Lauren were arrested in Oklahoma City for driving under the influence. Four bench warrants were issued for Lowe after he failed to appear for a hearing at Las Vegas Municipal Court.

The couple, who share one young child, also appeared in Tiger King 2.

05 of 09

Eric Cowie

Erik Cowie Tiger King

Cowie, a zookeeper who worked at G.W. Exotic Animal Park and appeared in the original seven-episode series, died in September 2021.

Cowie died on Sept. 3 from acute and chronic alcohol use in Brooklyn, New York, Julie Bolcer, a spokesperson for the N.Y.C. Office of Chief Medical Examiner told PEOPLE.

His manner of death has been determined as natural, Bolcer said.

Cowie was among those who testified against Exotic in the murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin.

06 of 09

Joshua Dial

Tiger King

Dial served as Exotic's campaign manager when the Oklahoma zookeeper ran for president in 2016 and governor in 2017. Dial, a former Walmart employee, also witnessed the death of Exotic's 23-year-old husband, Travis Maldonado.

"I have tried to move on, and I have been successful so far. I was given a new life and a second chance when I met my fiancé; I have no desire to bring any of that pain into my life," Dial told in 2020.

Dial appeared alongside Tiger King alumni Kelci "Saff" Saffery and John Reinke in a live touring show called Uncaged: The Untold Stories from the Cast of Tiger King, in which they reflect on the whirlwind experience of working for Exotic.

07 of 09

John Finlay

Tiger King
John Finlay. Netflix

Though he's stepped out of the spotlight since, viewers met Finlay, Exotic's now ex-husband, in the original Tiger King.

Finlay, who was candid about his use of methamphetamine during his relationship with Exotic, was filmed in the series with multiple missing teeth.

However, in a photo obtained by TMZ, Finlay revealed that he underwent a dental transformation thanks to dentures in July 2019. At the time, he told the outlet the cause of his missing teeth was not from drug use (he said he hasn't used any in upwards of six years), but a result of genetics.

Finlay joined the G.W. Exotic Animal Park staff in 2003 at 19 years old. According to a profile in Texas Monthly, within a month, Finlay moved in with Exotic and the two began a relationship. In December 2013, the pair entered a throuple with then 19-year-old Travis Maldonado, who came to the animal park from California.

In response to the docuseries, Finlay launched a Facebook page called The Truth About John Finlay, in which he revealed he is now happily married to a woman.

"She is my wife, more then [sic] I could have ever hoped to find, my soul mate and true love," Finley said of his spouse.

08 of 09

Kelci "Saff" Saffery

Tiger King

Saff was on staff at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park and lost part of his arm when he stuck his hand in a tiger cage to close the door.

Though he was able to return to work at the park after recovering from surgery, he opened up about the traumatic experience to raise awareness about the impact of personal injury at work in a June 2020 commercial for a Georgia-based law firm.

"I would encourage and I would hope that people aren't sitting around wondering, 'What should my next move be?' It should always be to consider the next move that is best for yourself," the Army vet said in the spot. "Your injuries are permanent, they are life-long, and your job is not."

Like Dial, Saff has shared his side of the story in the live show Uncaged: The Untold Stories from the Cast of Tiger King.

09 of 09

Rick Kirkham

Tiger King

Kirkham had been producing a reality series called Joe Exotic, Tiger King, that eventually provided footage for the Netflix hit.

Before his work with Exotic, Kirkham received his degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1981, according to his LinkedIn account. He later became a crime reporter for NBC and ABC News.

Today, he works as a freelance filmmaker in Norway where he lives with his wife, according to his Facebook page.

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