- Netflix’s docuseries “Tiger King” told the story of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which houses exotic animals from all over the world.
- Oklahoma was never under a statewide stay-at-home order, but some nonessential businesses were closed through April.
- Visitors travelled to the park from all over Oklahoma when it reopened and told Insider it was relatively quiet but that many people weren’t wearing masks or social distancing.
- Some visitors told Insider cub-petting and tours were not being offered at the end of April, however one visitor said there were tours when she visited on May 2.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
People who visited the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, known as the G.W. Zoo in the hit Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” told Insider that social distancing was barely happening and few wore masks at the zoo after it reopened at the end of April.
While Oklahoma was never under a statewide stay-at-home order, the G.W. Zoo, which houses exotic animals from around the world, had been closed for a month as it is considered a nonessential business.
The zoo gained attention with the popularity of “Tiger King,” which explores the personal history of the park’s original owner Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, Jeff Lowe’s current ownership of the park, and a scandal that unfolded around it; Exotic was imprisoned after he was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his rival, Carole Baskin, who owns the Tampa, Florida-based animal sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue.
The docuseries prompted outrage after it depicted the conditions in which animals were kept at the G.W. Zoo, where tigers and other animals were shown in small cages, fed meat from supermarket trash, and made to pose with visitors.
The zoo’s portrayal in ‘Tiger King’ didn’t stop people from visiting when it opened again in late April
According to a TMZ report, a huge crowd showed up once the zoo opened again. However, some visitors who spoke to Insider said they expected the crowds to be larger than what they experienced.
Destiny Garcia told Insider that she and her family drove an hour and a half to see the animals on April 29.
“When we arrived, there weren’t a lot of cars so we agreed it would be great to continue our visit,” she said.
“There weren’t many people at all, but with the ones that were there, my family and I maintained social-distancing regulations,” Garcia told Insider.
Garcia added that the park looked clean and “well-kept.”
Madison Garrett, who said she also visited the park on April 29, told Insider that “there actually weren’t many people” around the park. She also said that during her visit, the park wasn’t conducting organised tours, but, according to Lacee Mouser, tours were being offered at the time of her visit on May 2.
Jade Rock, who said she went to the park on April 30, said there was no cub-petting during her visit.
“There were actually no crowds, we were surprised by that,” she said.
Visitors said social distancing was barely happening, and that they didn’t see many people wearing masks
The Centres for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines on social distancing advise that people maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and others, and avoid gathering in groups and crowds. And despite the CDC’s recommendation that people wear a mask or face covering, some visitors told Insider they didn’t see many people wearing one.
Rock said that during her visit, “there was no [mask-wearing] or social distancing either.”
Others said they had a similar experience.
“Nobody was wearing masks during our visit and no rules to do so were enforced,” Garcia said. “To my knowledge, I didn’t see or hear of any social-distancing rules enforced as well.”
Garrett told Insider that there was no mask-wearing happening during her visit, but that people seemed to be social distancing within the guidelines put forth by the park.
“There was tape on the floor in the lobby but that was it,” she said.
Mouser told Insider that during her visit, she also saw tape set up on the floor of the gift shop where people entered to keep them at a distance, but added that she didn’t see any further guidelines after that.
“Once you’re in they can’t control anything,” she said.
Mouser told Insider she visited the park with her husband and grandmother, saying that they “just wanted to get out of the house” and decided to go after hearing about a friend’s visit a week prior.
During her visit, Mouser captured a photo of a group of visitors with Jeff Lowe, his wife Lauren, and zoo employee Erik Lowie. One person in the photo can be seen wearing a mask, though it’s possible there were others wearing a face covering out of the frame.
“I don’t remember seeing many people with masks but there was definitely barely any social distance enforced or even practiced,” Mouser said. “It’s obviously harder with the leaded tour groups because they have to gather to hear the instructions and info.”
Representatives for the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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