Tiger King's Jeff Lowe Says 'Don’t Worry About Our Animals' as Carole Baskin Takes Control of Zoo
Carole Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue corporation have been granted control of The G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park by a judge, who found that the property was fraudulently transferred to Joseph Maldonado-Passage's mother
Tiger King's Carole Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue corporation are prepared to help the animals of The G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma — but Jeff Lowe says he doesn't need her assistance.
Baskin and her Big Cat Rescue corporation have been granted control of the Oklahoma zoo property — which has been under the control of Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage ’s ex-business partner Lowe, who starred in the Netflix docuseries with his wife Lauren — by a judge who found that the property was fraudulently transferred to Maldonado-Passage's mother years ago, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
"If the need arises to make other plans to place the animals in new homes, Big Cat Rescue and the animal welfare organizations that have previously successfully placed big cats from large facilities in new homes stand ready to assist," Baskin, the very woman whom Maldonado-Passage was convicted of plotting to kill, said in a statement to PEOPLE.
Lowe has 120 days to vacate the premises — including all of his animals that currently reside there, according to the ruling.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lowe addressed the lawsuit — and confirmed that Baskin will not be taking any of the animals from the zoo.
"Although I am not personally named in the lawsuit, it appears that Carole Baskin and her desire to exact revenge against Joe Exotic trumps the livelihood of the families that came together to save her life. Without our efforts, it is well known that Carole would no longer be here. We anticipated Carole Baskin gaining title to the former park that once belonged to Joe Exotic many years ago. It is my understanding that she will also be taking the cages from the zoo, which thankfully means that the animals that she has will finally have the proper amount of space to move around," he wrote about Baskin, who founded her Tampa, Florida-based big cat rescue.
Lowe went on to explain that the animals will be re-homed at the new Tiger King Park, which is set to open in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in September.
"Please don’t worry about our animals. As you saw on the Netflix documentary, I have been building the greatest Tiger Park the world has ever seen. Thanks to our loyal fans and customers, and the amazing people who work at the zoo, the new Tiger King Park is opening in Thackerville, Oklahoma this September, directly adjacent to the World’s Largest Casino, WinStar World Casino and Resort," wrote Lowe.
He concluded: "We look forward to seeing you at our new location in September. Please visit us at www.officialtigerking.com for more information. But in the meantime, we are still open for business! So, if you haven’t had a chance to visit the zoo and see our animals, this may be your last chance!"
Maldonado-Passage's public defender did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment. PEOPLE is out to Maldonado-Passage's husband, Dillon Passage, for comment.
The Monday ruling marks yet another twist in the complicated world of big cats that are kept in the United States, which was seen in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
In March, the show's director Eric Goode told Entertainment Weekly that the zoo — under Lowe's leadership — was still open, but "basically operating on fumes."
"No one is going now and there’s no source of income, and that's been going on for a long time," Goode said. "It's not something that has just happened because of what's happening in the world today."
But speaking with PEOPLE on Tuesday, Lowe's attorney, Walter Mosley, denied that the park isn't making money.
"It is not true. Maybe that might have been true before the documentary came out and maybe because of COVID, but now the world is opening back up and the park is profitable," said Mosley.
He also added that the new park is "under construction" and "the people that want to come to the old park have 120 days to enjoy the old park before they move everything out."
In a complaint filed in February 2016, Big Cat Rescue sued Maldonado-Passage's mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, alleging that the transfer of the Oklahoma zoo was fraudulent.
"Schreibvogel later admitted under oath that the zoo land was transferred to her by Joe Maldonado to remove it from the reach of creditors, including BCR, should BCR win its Florida lawsuit," the complaint said.
Schreibvogel allegedly admitted in 2015 that "the zoo land was fraudulently transferred to her by Joe Maldonado in 2011 to avoid his creditors," according to the complaint.
Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison when he was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill Baskin. He was also found guilty on multiple charges of violating both the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and the Endangered Species Act. The disgraced zookeeper filed a lawsuit in March against various government agencies, as well as a former business partner, seeking $94 million in damages.