EXCLUSIVE: Tiger King’s Joe Exotic ‘killed more than 100 tigers, would hit cubs if they misbehaved and was afraid of most of his big cats’, as zoo employee says ‘several would have eaten him alive if given the chance’

  • Erik Cowie, the head zookeeper at the GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, exclusively claimed to DailyMailTV that Joe Exotic killed more than 100 tigers
  • Cowie recalls another time where Joe and another zoo employee put down eight tigers in one day
  • He said: ‘They euthanized them and had a veterinarian sign off on them with excuses like, they were too old, sick, etc’
  • Cowie said the animals hated Joe so much that ‘several of the big cats would have eaten him alive if given the chance’
  • He added: ‘There was a liger and we used to use Joe as bait in order to get her out of its cage, this big cat would try to attack Joe everyone she saw him’
  • A liger is a cross breed of a female tiger and a male lion 
  • Cowie says he regrets not speaking out sooner about Joe, saying: ‘These animals trusted me and I let some of them down, for that I’ll never forget’ 
  • Joe is currently serving 22 years in prison for hiring a hit-man to kill Carole Baskin and for more than a dozen wildlife violations, including killing five tigers

Tiger King’s Joe Exotic killed more than 100 tigers, would hit tiger cubs if they misbehaved and was afraid of most of his big cats, a zoo employee has claimed exclusively to DailyMailTV.

Erik Cowie, the head zookeeper at the GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, said the animals hated Joe so much that ‘several of the big cats would have eaten him alive if given the chance.’ 

Cowie, 51, said: ‘Joe would often brag about being in a cage with 16 tigers, but in reality it was more like two or three of them. I would take the mean ones out of the cage, the cats who didn’t like him.

‘There was a liger and we used to use Joe as bait in order to get her out of its cage, this big cat would try to attack Joe every time she saw him.’ A liger is a cross breed of a female tiger and a male lion.  

Last January, Joe was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for hiring a hit-man to kill his arch nemesis Carole Baskin and for more than a dozen wildlife violations, including killing five tigers.

But Cowie said his former boss actually killed more than 100 tigers, adding: ‘Joe was all smoke and mirrors, he was all a show.’ 

Tiger King’s Joe Exotic killed more than 100 tigers, would hit tiger cubs if they misbehaved and was afraid of most of his big cats, a zoo employee has claimed exclusively to DailyMailTV

Erik Cowie, the head zookeeper at the GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, said the animals hated Joe so much that ‘several of the big cats would have eaten him alive if given the chance.’ He added: ‘There was a liger and we used to use Joe as bait in order to get her out of its cage, this big cat would try to attack Joe every time she saw him.’ Pictured: Joe Exotic with a male liger at his zoo. A liger is a cross breed of a female tiger and a male lion 

But Cowie said his former boss actually killed more than 100 tigers, adding: ‘Joe was all smoke and mirrors, he was all a show.’ Cowie recalls another time where Joe and another zoo employee put down eight tigers in one day, saying: ‘They euthanized them and had a veterinarian sign off on them with excuses like, they were too old, sick, etc’ 

Cowie claimed after Joe killed the five tigers to make room to board other animals at the zoo, he came up to Cowie and said: ‘Damn, Erik if I only knew it was going to be that easy.’

One of the tigers Joe put down was a 27-year old Siberian tiger named ‘Cuddles’, who was only guilty of being old.

Cowie recalls another time where Joe and another zoo employee put down eight tigers in one day, saying: ‘They euthanized them and had a veterinarian sign off on them with excuses like, they were too old, sick, etc.

‘Most of the time a veterinarian wasn’t even around when things like that would happen, but he would write it down on a log, so he could be covered in case government inspectors wanted to check his books.’

Cowie said there was one particular lion that had such a hatred for Joe it ‘would try to chew through the cage to get at him.’

He explained Joe didn’t spend enough time with the cats ‘in order to truly bond with them’ and that towards the end, Joe was too busy campaigning for governor or president.

He said: ‘Joe only cared about them in a monetary way.’

Cowie added: ‘I learned a lot from Joe, mostly on not what to do.’ 

Cowie claimed after Joe killed the five tigers to make room for other animals to board at the zoo, he came up to Cowie and said: ‘Damn, Erik if I only knew it was going to be that easy.’ Pictured: Cowie on the hit Netflix docuseries Tiger King 

Cowie also revealed Joe would hit cubs that were misbehaving when guests were around and interacting with the baby tigers. Pictured: A tiger cub at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park 

Cowie explained Joe didn’t spend enough time with the cats ‘in order to truly bond with them’ and that towards the end Joe was too busy campaigning for governor or president, adding: ‘Joe only cared about them in a monetarily way.’ Pictured: A tiger at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park


Cowie (pictured with the big cats at the zoo) explained it made his job more difficult, saying: ‘I then had to deal with a baby cub who had just been popped in the nose and then make sure it wouldn’t act up and bite some older women or child’

He also revealed Joe would hit cubs that were misbehaving when guests were around and interacting with the baby tigers. 

‘For one reason or another, a cub would become unruly so Joe would take the baby cub out of view of the people at the zoo and pop the cub in the nose and bring it back out,’ the zoo worker said.

Cowie explained it made his job more difficult, saying: ‘I then had to deal with a baby cub who had just been popped in the nose and then make sure it wouldn’t act up and bite some older women or child.’

Joe wouldn’t allow zoo guests to bring cameras into his zoo and sometimes employees would check a person’s belt buckle area to make sure there wasn’t a hidden camera, Cowie said. 

Joe did this because he was frightened PETA would send in a spy to get evidence of him being abusive towards the animals.

Cowie said he regrets not speaking out sooner about Joe killing more than 100 cats. 

‘These animals trusted me and I let some of them down, for that I’ll never forget.’ 

Cowie has been at the zoo for eight years and if it’s up to him, he’ll be doing this job for the rest of his life. 

He said: ‘I love these animals dude. I’d sooner put myself under a bus than leave these animals. These animals are my children.

‘They are the only reason why I’m out here. I’m just a guy who picks up poop with his hands and I’m good at cutting up cows to feed to the tigers.’

Cowie said he’s working his dream job, but admits he thinks he’s too old to do it.

He explained: ‘It’s a young man’s job, I’m old and my body has suffered because of it.’ 

A few years back Cowie said he got too close to a bear and it took off the top of one of his fingers. 

Cowie thinks that not only are the animals are better off with Joe gone, but the employees are as well. The zoo currently houses 117 cats under new owner, Jeff Lowe. 

Cowie said the cats ‘are fed 17lbs of raw USDA chicken quarters, six days a week. 

‘These animals are well-fed, the chicken we feed them is for human consumption, as well. No expired meat like you saw in the show.’ 

Cowie said he’s working his dream job, but admits he thinks he’s too old to do it. He explained: ‘It’s a young man’s job, I’m old and my body has suffered because of it’

A few years back Cowie said he got too close to a bear and it took off the top of one of his fingers

Cowie thinks that not only are the animals are better off with Joe gone, but the employees are as well. The zoo currently houses 117 cats under new owner, Jeff Lowe (pictured with his wife Lauren)

The ex-military veteran said he is not working at the zoo to get rich. He said he made $150 a week working for Joe, and that during some winters, they would go without pay for months. 

Now, he makes about $500 a week and loves every minute of his job. Cowie said he received $700 to appear in the Netflix docuseries.

Cowie defends what he does for a living, saying ‘the bottom line is the tiger is going to be extinct in the wild soon.’ The World Wide Fund for Nature reports that fewer than 4,000 exist in the wild today. 

‘Zoos like ours are becoming a repository for animals because humans are wiping them out,’ Cowie said.

‘Without breeding zoos and if we don’t keep them safe, they may one day go by the way of the dinosaur. 

‘Our tigers are born in captivity they don’t know any better. You can’t allow a tiger that is born in captivity and release it back into the wild.’

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