Those who've seen Netflix's Tiger King know that it's hard to keep up with everyone involved. The Netflix docuseries uncovers the shady, twisted, and bizarre world wild animal collector Joe Exotic was involved in. Over the span of about five years a lot goes down — and the series hints that the story isn’t quite over yet, even with Exotic’s 22-year prison sentence. So following this journey, full of disparate players, is sort of like trying to follow Game of Thrones back in season 1. To truly understand the world of Tiger King, you have to understand its kingdom — all the people who played a part in Joe Exotic’s rise to fame and success, his downfall, and his conviction. Here’s a breakdown of every major player in the game.
The "Tiger King" — Joe Exotic
Exotic, who was alienated by his family when they learned his was gay, described his love of animals as a way to cope with his painful childhood. What seemingly started out a passion, appears to have become an addiction. As the doc shows, Exotic’s wild cat business kept expanding until it became too big for him to handle. Some say he was so fame and money-obsessed, that he completely forgot about the animals at his zoo, now known as The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (or GW Zoo). Exotic mismanaged his finances, made an ill-advised decision to run for President (and then Oklahoma Governor), and picked on the wrong woman to go to war with (we’ll get to that in a second).
Exotic got into so much financial and legal trouble, that he skipped out of town, fleeing to Florida. He was eventually caught by the feds and sentenced to 22 years in prison for his crimes. To this day, he still claims that he’s innocent of all charges against him, which range from hiring a hitman to animal abuse.
Big Cat Rescue Owner & Activist— Carole Baskin
Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, is Exotic’s mortal enemy. After first learning about Exotic’s operations, Baskin made it a personal mission to take him down, although, Exotic didn’t make that very hard for her. After Baskin sued the infamous zookeeper for using the Big Cat Rescue logo as a marketing ploy for $1 million, Exotic began openly threatening her life on YouTube and was later convicted of attempting to pay for her murder.
Baskin has problems of own, however. Her late, wealthy husband Don Lewis' family openly accuse her of playing a role in his disappearance in the documentary. Baskin repeatedly denied the accusation. Lewis is who Baskin originally started the wild cat breeding business that would become Big Cat Rescue. Exotic helped stoke the fires of this theory on his web series and by making a music video in which a Baskin look-a-like feeds a man to a tiger.
Aside from the accusations, Baskin is still a huge advocate for the protection of wild cats and frequently visits Washington D.C. as part of her plan to push the Big Cat Safety Act, which would restrict the ownership of exotic cats, through.
Carole Baskin's Current Husband — Howard Baskin
Howard is Carole’s third husband and truly her number one fan. The two met in 2002 at an event raising awareness around homeless pets. They got married in 2004, and he’s been helping Carole run Big Cat Rescue ever since.
Carole Baskin's Former Husband — Don Lewis
In Tiger King, we learn that Baskin met Lewis one night when she was out walking late at night after an altercation with her abusive first husband. Lewis, who was married and had children at the time, reached out to her and asked her to spend some time with him. The two got married in Florida in 1991 and started collecting big cats together.
Lewis, who was 22 years Baskin’s senior, was a millionaire. The couple used his funds to open Big Cat Rescue, which was originally called Wildlife on Easy Street. The relationship between them soured, however. Then Lewis vanished without a trace in August of 1997.
Don Lewis' Former Assistant — Anne McQueen
McQueen was Lewis’s executive assistant for many years. McQueen makes many allegations against Baskin in the docu-series. She also has a copy of Lewis' supposed request for a restraining order against Baskin. She claims Lewis gave it to her to show the cops if “anything happened” to him.
The Myrtle Beach Safari Owner — Bhagavan "Doc" Antle
Another well-known private zookeeper, “Doc” Antle, made a name for himself training wild animals on movie sets, like Doctor Dolittle and Ace Ventura. He’s the CEO and founder of T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) and he runs the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina. Exotic has publicly stated that he modeled his own zoo off of Antle’s operations. Antle still runs his business in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Antle’s partners who are introduced in the docuseries, Moksha, China, and Rajnee, still work at the Myrtle Beach Safari, according to Instagram.
The GW Zoo's Head Tiger Keeper — Erik Cowie
Cowie was GW Zoo’s head keeper. He ended up testifying against Exotic in April 2019. The often brash zoo keeper, who originally found the gig on Craigslist, clearly wanted nothing to do with Exotic’s drama. All the long-haired former keeper wanted to do was take care of the cats.
Joe Exotic's Former Reality Show Producer — Rick Kirkham
Kirkham, who came to Exotic to film a reality TV show about what it’s like to run a private zoo (it was going to be named Joe Exotic, Tiger King), ended up getting burned pretty hard by the wild cat collector — literally. After their relationship had gone south, it’s alluded that Exotic didn’t like the fact that Kirkham had filmed potentially damning evidence that could help Baskin, so he set his own studio (containing all of Kirkham’s un-backed-up footage) on fire. After the incident, Kirkham suffered from a self-described nervous breakdown and went home to Dallas, Texas. Prior to becoming a producer (he’s owned a production company called RealReels since 1999), Kirkham was the news director at KFBB TV and a senior reporter and video producer at Inside Edition.
The GW Zoo General Manager — John Reinke
Reinke, GW Zoo’s general manager, is possibly the one person who stayed loyal to Exotic through good, bad, and ugly. Reinke started out as a professional bungee jumper who lost both of his legs when he fell from the lines one day. He permanently damaged his legs, and chose to have them both amputated. In 2007, Reinke took his family to Exotic’s zoo and fell in love with the place. He came on as manager the same year, moving in and leaving his family behind in Texas.
We know from the docuseries that he ended up leaving his wife and probably starting a new career working on race cars. A Facebook post from Bodine Transmission Shop credit's Reinke's tire shop.
Joe Exotic's First Ex-Husband — John Finlay
Finlay met Exotic when he was just 19 years old, and the two were quickly married. Finlay stayed in a relationship with him from 2003 to 2014. In the docuseries, we discover that Exotic most likely took advantage of the young Finlay, enticing him with cats, money, and power. Finlay, who identifies as straight, eventually started a relationship with Amber, a co-worker at GW Zoo. Amber became pregnant in 2014 and the two welcomed a child together. These days, Finlay has a new job as a welder and got himself a brand new pair of teeth, per Buzzfeed.
GW Zookeeper — Kelci “Saff” Saffery
Saffery showed their devotion to Exotic and the zoo by coming back to work after getting an arm amputated following a tiger attack. The tiger keeper was attacked when putting an arm into a cage and took the blame for the accident, saying that it was their fault because a stick should have been used. According to LinkedIn, Saffery still works at GW Zoo, but per a new interview with David Spade, Saffery has since moved on.
Another Private Zoo Owner — Tim Stark
Stark is one of the several private zookeepers Tiger King introduces, although he plays a larger role when it’s shown that he went into business with Jeff Lowe when the two tried re-opening GW Zoo together. The relationship between Stark and Lowe went bad after Stark alleged that Lowe had been using him for his resources.
But Stark has his own problems, as he's been accused of numerous heinous animal abuses. Though Stark has denied those claims, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended up revoking Stark’s license, for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act. There is a petition on Change.org to save the animals at his zoo, Wildlife in Need. According to the Courier Journal, Wildlife in Need is still open to the public while Stark appeals the revocation of his license.
Convicted Drug Kingpin & Miami Private Zoo Owner — Mario Tabraue
Mario Tabraue first gained notoriety as a drug kingpin who used his private zoo to cover up his other operations. He went to prison after he was convicted of racketeering and 13 other narcotics counts, per the AP. He only served 12 of his 100 year sentence, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Tabraue owns a private zoo with 24-hour security and full-time guards at the gate. Tabraue, whose former empire earns him comparisons to Scarface’s Tony Montana, owns the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF) and runs it with his wife, Maria. Tabraue currently operates the appointment-only ZWF Zoo.
Former Apprentice Of Doc Antle — Barbara Fisher
Fisher was one of Antle’s apprentices for several years and made serious claims about his alleged business practices in Tiger King. She claims that Antle only brough teenage girls on as apprentices and that inappropriate relationships were exchanged for professional advancement, among other heinous claims. Antle recently denied all of Fisher's Tiger King claims in an interview with Oxygen.
Doc Antle's Son — Kody Antle
Although Kody only briefly appears in the docuseries, he’s become somewhat of an internet sensation; he had a big Instagram and TikTok following before the Netflix docuseries even came out. Kody is Antle’s son with his first wife, who died in a car crash 20 years ago. Kody has a sister named Tawny. Both work at the Myrtle Beach Safari.
Joe Exotic's Late Ex-Husband — Travis Maldonado
Travis Maldonado was just 19 when he met Exotic, and a month later married him. But if you've finished the docuseries, you know he has a tragic story. The Southern California native reportedly had a history of drug addiction, and Tiger King alleges that Malonado and Exotic’s relationship was primarily based around drugs. Maldonado had expressed feeling trapped and controlled by Exotic, per the docuseries. One day, after venting about how unhappy he was to Joshua Dial, Exotic’s then-campaign manager, Maldonado accidentally shot himself and died. Exotic was devastated, but remarried two months later.
Joe Exotic's Current Husband —Dillon Passage
Two months after Exotic’s husband, Maldonado, died, Exotic met Passage on a dating site. Exotic and Passage were married as of 2019, and Passage has been unwaveringly loyal to Exotic.
The New GW Zoo Owner — Jeff Lowe
Lowe initially is first introduced as a wealthy investor who wants to bail Exotic out of his financial woes and go into business with him. We later learn that Lowe is a convicted felon and doesn’t appear to have as much money as he claims he does. By the end of the documentary, Exotic accuses Lowe of framing him, an accusation Lowe denies. In fact, Exotic has filed a $94 million lawsuit against Lowe and the government from Federal prison, according to Rolling Stone.
Jeff Lowe's Wife & GW Zoo Co-Owner — Lauren Lowe
Lauren is Jeff’s partner; the married couple took over Exotic’s zoo as a team. According to their zoo’s Instagram page and Facebook, they still run the park together, and Lauren, who was pregnant in the last episode of The Tiger King, has since given birth to a baby girl named Sarah.
Jeff Lowe's Handyman — Allen Glover
Lowe brought Glover on to be a handyman at GW Zoo and he ended up being instrumental in the takedown of Exotic. Exotic was convicted of enlisting Glover to kill Baskin for him for $3,000. Glover luckily never made it to Baskin’s home in Florida and instead, spent the money partying. Glover told authorities that Exotic gave him money in exchange for him killing Baskin.
Federal Informant In The Joe Exotic Case — James Garretson
Garretson is introduced as a former strip club owner; he allegedly first met Exotic when looking to buy some wild animals. He also dipped in the exotic animal business, owning tigers of his own as well as a mobile zoo at one point. Garretson ended up betraying Exotic in order to wipe his own hands clean. He agreed to act as an informant for the government, and ultimately told played a huge role in Exotic's murder-for-hire conviction.
Joe Exotic's Presidential & Gubernatorial Campaign Manager — Joshua Dial
Probably one of the purest people involved in the Joe Exotic chronicles, Dial acted as Exotic’s campaign manager during the time when the zookeeper ran for President and then Oklahoma governor. Dial, who Exotic recruited at a local Walmart where Dial worked as a store manager, stuck around in order to provide Exotic emotional support. He was also the one who witnessed Maldonado's death. These days, Dial told Oxygen that he has completely moved on from his days at GW Zoo and is getting married soon. Because of his experience with Exotic, Dial says he is no longer interested in a career in politics. Although he hasn’t seen Tiger King, he hopes everyone’s main takeaway is how important it is to protect and preserve wildlife.
Update: This article was originally published on March 27. It has been updated to reflect Saffery's change in employment.