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‘Tiger King’ Is ‘One of the Most Appalling Shows,’ Says World’s Leading Tiger Biologist

John Goodrich is a chief scientist for the big cat organization Panthera, and he takes issue with Netflix's word-of-mouth docuseries hit.

Tiger King Netflix Joe Exotic

“Tiger King”

Screenshot/Netflix

Netflix’s documentary crime series “Tiger King” has become one of the streaming giant’s biggest hits in 2020, but what do actual big cat experts think of the series? The Daily Beast recently spoke with John Goodrich to find out. Goodrich is considered one of the world’s foremost tiger biologists and is a chief scientist at Panthera, one of the biggest wild cat conservation organizations operating today. The scientist shared critical thoughts on “Tiger King,” which tracks the rivalry between big cat conservationists Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic. Goodrich said “Tiger King” is “one of the most appalling shows I’ve ever seen.”

Goodrich criticized “Tiger King” for being more about “the bizarre characters involved in the big-cat industry in the U.S.” than about the big cats themselves. The characters “Tiger King” does focus on are deeply problematic, according to Goodrich, to the conversation of big cats. The scientist said, “If it were more focused on the tigers, ‘Tiger King’ wouldn’t have left out that Joe Exotic wasn’t just convicted of murder-for-hire but nine violations of the Endangered Species Act. Federal agents found bones belonging to five tigers in the back of Joe Exotic’s zoo — tigers that he shot to death and buried there.”

As for Baskin, whose wildlife group Big Cat Rescue rakes in millions of dollars each year, Goodrich said viewers shouldn’t be tricked into believing she is some kind of big cat savior.

“One of the problems with ‘legitimate’ sanctuaries is that some of them might be making profits off of their sanctuaries, and it gives the public the impression that they’re making some great contribution to cat conservation and protecting cats by giving money to these sanctuaries,” Goodrich said. “It is not a contribution to saving big cats. These sanctuaries in the U.S. run the gamut from people who are living hand to mouth and putting everything they make back into taking care of the cats, to ones where people are making a lot of money under the guise of a big cat rescue sanctuary.”

Goodrich said the only good place for tigers in captivity are at “accredited zoos,” not facilities run by the likes of Baskin. “What [viewers] saw, they learned nothing about tiger conservation,” Goodrich added about “Tiger King.”

The seven-episode docuseries is now streaming on Netflix.

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