As much as her cool cats and kittens may disagree, it's probably fair to say that Carole Baskin didn't win herself too many additional fans through her portrayal in viral Netflix doco Tiger King. The owner herself of the Big Cat Rescue facility in Hillsborough County, Florida, she caught as much of the public's ire as any of the other zoo owners featured in the show, with many still calling into question her true motivations, the way she runs her own facility, and her mysterious back story.
But while the documentary series charted a number of the battles that she and zoo owner Joe Exotic fought against one another in a quest for power masquerading as a fight for animal rights, Baskin has taken a major step in winning the overall war.
In a decision handed down by a U.S. court overnight, Carole Baskin has been handed ownership and control of the Tiger King Park, recently renamed to reflect its status as a subject of the show, after the park's previous owner, Exotic, failed to pay her $1m in copyright and trademark suits.
Tiger King left viewers wondering what happened next after the public disputes between Exotic and Baskin boiled over into a murder-for-hire plot allegedly conducted by Exotic. Exotic was found guilty of 17 counts of animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin, and sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2016.
Upon this decision, Tiger King Park was put into the control of Jeff Lowe, a rival turned business associate, and Exotic’s mother, Shirley Schreibvogel, who has spent the last few years rebuilding the facility in the shadow of a new mega-casino. Per The Guardian, Baskin sued, claiming that the zoo had been fraudulently transferred to the pair to avoid it being seized by Maldonado-Passage’s creditors, herself included, a claim upheld in court.
Lowe himself has said that he expected the decision to transfer the park into Baskin's hands for years, telling TMZ he was "thankful that [the judge] dragged out his decision this long and allowed us time to complete the new Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma, behind the world’s largest casino.”
Whether this brings finality to the story of the Tiger King remains to be seen, but with Nicolas Cage set to play Exotic in an upcoming movie adaptation, it's one that'll live long in the public consciousness all the same.