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Joe Exotic's "Tiger King" zoo is closing for good, new owner says

The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, an Oklahoma-based big cat zoo made infamous by Netflix's "Tiger King" documentary, is closing to the public. The park will become "a private film set for Tiger King related television content for cable and and streaming services," owner Jeff Lowe announced Tuesday.

In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Lowe said he is forfeiting his zoo exhibitor license issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and closing the park immediately. Lowe suggested the park no longer needs income from visitors, because money from the controversial documentary — which painted Lowe as the bad guy — will sustain the operation going forward. 

"[The documentary] has also provided us with an unfathomable source of income – income that will guarantee the long-term care of our animals and allow us to be very selective going forward," he said in the post.  

"Tiger King," released on Netflix in March, follows eccentric zoo founder Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as "Joe Exotic." The documentary covers Maldonado-Passage's rivalry with Carole Baskin, who runs a wildlife sanctuary in Florida. Maldonado-Passage repeatedly accuses Baskin of killing her former husband and possibly feeding his body to tigers. Baskin hasn't been charged with any crime and has repeatedly refuted Maldonado-Passage's accusations.

Earlier this year, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot. He was convicted of trying to hire someone to kill Baskin, who had tried to shut him down for allegedly abusing animals and selling tiger cubs.

After his sentencing, Maldonado-Passage raised questions about the whereabouts of Don Lewis, Baskin's former husband, who disappeared in 1997. In response to media attention, Lewis' family has hired a lawyer who has launched an investigation into Lewis' whereabouts, and is offering $100,000 for information. 

In an email sent to the Associated Press last week, Baskin declined to comment on the investigation or forthcoming legal action. "It's been my policy not to discuss pending litigation until it's been resolved," Baskin wrote.

The USDA has been under pressure from animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to condemn the big cat park, Lowe said in the Facebook post. A June report from the agency said the zoo wasn't providing animals with adequate veterinary care. 

Lowe dismissed the agency's critique on Facebook, thanked people who visited the park over the years and promised them the cats would live happy and healthy lives. 

"Rest assured that all the animals will continue to have excellent care, and consequently will no longer be subject to USDA inspections or PETA spies," he wrote on Facebook. 

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