In an affidavit of more than 50 pages, prosecutors said they believed a jaguar, seven lions, 46 tigers and 15 lion-tiger hybrids owned by Jeffrey Lowe and his wife, Lauren Lowe, had been sold, purchased or transported, which would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The affidavit said: “There is probable cause to believe that the 68 big cats and the jaguar continue to be harmed and harassed and, therefore, unlawfully taken in violation of the ESA.”
“This seizure should send a clear message that the justice department takes alleged harm to captive-bred animals protected under the Endangered Species Act very seriously,” said Jean Williams, the acting assistant attorney general of the justice department’s environment and natural resources division.
Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who now co-chairs the National Law Enforcement Council for Animal Wellness Action, a group that endorses policies to prevent animal cruelty, said the seizure from the Lowes’ Tiger King Park punctuates a long series of federal actions to shut down an “unethical roadside zoo operator.”
“Joe Exotic and Jeff Lowe ran slipshod operations and the chickens have come home to roost,” Edmondson said.
Jeffrey Lowe was a central figure in “Tiger King” that featured a mullet-wearing zookeeper named Joe Exotic and became a cultural phenomenon last year.
Joe Exotic, a pseudonym for Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison in Texas for his2020 conviction on charges that he participated in a murder-for-hire plot and violated federal wildlife laws.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid said in a statement that the DOJ is working to ensure the animals are sent to “responsible animal preserves where they can be safely maintained rather than exploited.”
In his social media post, Mr Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, wrote: “John Phillips [Joe’s lawyer] has received my medical records from FMC Fort Worth and my PSA count came back very high for prostate cancer.
“The prison has approved testing to verify what stage it is in. My body is tired, I have lost a tremendous amount of weight, the mouth sores are out of control, I throw up more than I eat.”
Mr Exotic added: “Make this right and sign that pardon that Trump left behind so I can go home and get proper medical care and proper food.”