Joe Exotic, who’s real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is a 57 year old who lived in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Joe has a fascinating story that has risen to fame with his documentaries and online presence. In this article, we will be discussing the extraordinary life of Joe Exotic, his Net worth, Music, Zoo business Presidential run, fued with his arch nemesis “Carole F****** Baskin” and stories behind his scandals and lawsuits.
Joe exotic has made a considerable fortune from his animal care business. He has so many income streams and has an estimated net worth between $10 to $15 million.
Joe Exotic is an American zookeeper and now a convicted offender. He is a founder and former owner of the world’s largest private zoo “Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park” also known as G.W.Zoo in Oklahoma. As a lifelong animal lover, Joe is famous as Tiger king and a self-claimed most profuse breeder of tigers in the U.S.
Joe always wanted to become world-famous and committed different careers. He was a wannabe country singer and became a local celebrity by producing several music videos and talk shows for YouTube. He even pursued politics by running in the elections for President in 2016 and then subsequently Governor of U.S
His childhood dream of becoming famous finally came true and he skyrocketed to fame after the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” and he is getting international fame and admiration while he is locked up behind bars. He was accused to hire two contract killers to murder Carole Baskin, breaking the Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act (see below). He was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
While piecing this article together we shove a little deeper into his personal life. Joe exotic has larger than life personality and interesting life events. This article will help you know his net worth, Zoo and, Music and political career.
Early life and Family
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage was born on March 5th 1963 in Garden City, Kansas. His birth name is Joseph Allen Schreibvogel. His parents hail from a wealthy farming background. His mother, Shirley and his father Francis was a Korean war veteran. Joe has four siblings, two brothers, and two sisters. He is a middle child.
According to Joe his parents never showed any affection towards their children. Treating them as working machines they never expressed their love physically or verbally. Joe had a rough childhood and became a victim of a sexual predator at the age of five.
The family moved from Kansas to Wyoming and later to Texas North of Dallas when Joe was 14 years old. They spent his teens in an eight-bedroom house on a large ranch.
He shared a profound bonding with his brother Garold as they both were animal lovers. He used to rescue animals from a very young age and often brought refugee animals home.
Joe graduated from Pilot Point High School in 1982 and became the police chief of Eastvale, Texas which was a small county of about 500 people. The town had limited funds for fixing roads or water treatment and police department also suffered. The roads were so bad that often it was difficult to tell if a driver was intoxicated as sober drivers also had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid pot holes. Joe ultimately quit the force after he was severly injured during a drug investigation where his car was forced him off a bridge and resulted him being in a coma for 9 days and then subsequently rehabilitation for 6 months.
A turning point of his life came when he came out as gay. One of his siblings disclosed his sexual orientation to his parents. The incident left him devastated and mortified with himself and he committed suicide by smashing his car into a bridge nearly hurtled over the edge of the bridge. He miraculously survived the accident with severe injuries. He then moved to West Palm Beach, Florida for physical rehabilitation and went through months of therapy.
On his Instagram he posted his photo in hospital along with the caption “They said I wouldn’t Live 2 days. God gave me this Chance”. After recovery, he started working at a pet store.
Joe Exotic’s Partners and Husbands
Joe Exotic’s Husband Brian Rhyne
Joe had numerous partners. He was in a relationship with Brian Rhyne from 1986 to 2001 whom he met at a gay bar called Round-Up Saloon where Joe worked as a security guard. The two in fact married in the bar but this was before gay marriages were legal. It was during this relationship that Joe in fact opened up his famous G.W. Zoo back in 1999. Rhyne sadly died in 2001 from HIV complications
Joe Exotic’s Husband John Finlay
After Brian died of HIV, Joe began dating JC Hartpence in 2002, who was the event manager for his traveling animal show. Hartpence was a drug and alcohol addict and their relationship was very toxic. At one point they both threatened to kill each other which proved to be the final nail in the coffin.
In 2003 Joe started a relationship with John Finlay who was appointed as an employee of G.W. Zoo. Finlay was not in fact gay before meeting Joe, but Joe had courted Finlay and bought him many presents and methamphetamines to keep him close.
They married in 2014 in a three-way marriage with Travis Maldonado but Finlay left the marriage later that same year. Joe’s relationship with Finlay began to fall apart when Finlay decided to leave the relationship after Joe had become controlling and manipulative.
Finlay has been clear of meth from the year he left Joe and is now a welder and engaged to a female Stormey Sanders. In the Netflix show he was portrayed as a hillbilly but in fact has turned his life around significantly and in fact has a new set of teeth which he got in the middle of 2019. Finlay’s goal is to inspire youth to lead better lives and avoid drug abuse.
Joe Exotic’s Husband Travis Maldonado
Travis Maldonado joined the zoo in late 2013 at the age of 19 from California while he was already had an addition to meth and marijuana. Joe instantly took a liking to him and also coerced Maldonado into a relationship. He, Travis and Finlay married unofficially in a three-way ceremony held a dancing hall across the street in 2014 approximately one month after Maldonado had joined the zoo. Joe changed his name to Joseph Allen Maldonado. In 2015, the three-way marriage was change to a two-way marriage between Joe and Maldonado after Finlay left.
Travis died in an accident by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head at the Zoo on October 6, 2017, at the age of 23 when Maldonado was playing a prank with a gun trying to prove it would not fire without a magazine in there.
Joe Exotic’s Husband Dillon Passage
Exotic married 22-year-old Dillon Passage on December 11, 2017. Passage is also an animal lover and was drawn to Exotic;s charismatic nature. The couple met online and in a matter of weeks got married after which Joe changed his official surname to Maldonado-Passage.
In 2018, Joe and Dillon moved to Florida along with their four pet dogs, where he started working at a seafood joint, “Peg Leg Pete’s” as a dishwasher in the daytime and as a bartender in a catering company at night. He was trying to get his hands on the third job at a nearby hospital when he got under arrest.
After Exotic’s imprisonment, Passage has said on multiple occasions that he will stand by Exotic and has been talking to Joe several times a day. Exotic has already told Passage that if he does find another partner that Exotic would be supportive of him.
Tragedy hit him hard again when he involved James Garretson in his business and Jeff Lowe who eventually took over and kicked Joe out of his own business.
Joe Exotic had quite a significant amount of wealth that was accumulated from his zoo. His is growing affluence primarily came from the fees he collected from patrons coming to his Zoo and also the illegal sale of tigers. His net worth is roughly calculated around $10 to $15 million. He is the founder of the biggest private animal park “G. W. Zoo” in Texas.
In 1986, he opened his first Zoo along with his brother Garold and first husband Brian in Arlington, Texas. In October 1997, misfortune struck when his brother Garold tragically died after being hit by a drunk driver. The family collected $140,000 on the account of Garold’s death with which he bought sixteen acres of land in the south of Oklahoma City. After two years he inaugurated “The Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park” in the memory of his beloved brother. In 2001, his zoo made a total revenue of $117,022 which became $539,320 in 2006. In addition to collecting entrance fees, he would charge $50 for two people to spend six minutes with cubs.
His other earnings came from his traveling animal and magic show where tigers were displayed for educational purposes and kids interact with tiger cubs up close. Joe in fact learned magic from a partner called Johnny Magic, however things did not work out between the two and Joe had walked away knowing Johnny’s magic tricks. With growing popularity, he started booking events in malls and fairs in Oklahoma. He was described as “Master Illusionist Joe Exotic” by several newspapers.
To further expand his business, he opened the zoo’s gift shop for selling Joe Exotic branded skincare range, booze lube, and condoms and under wares. He also owns a Pizza Joint “Zooters” and bar named “Safari Bar”.
Laws that Joe Exotic broke
In 1999, Joe Exotic volunteered to provide shelter to a large number of deserted emus founded in Red Oak, Texas. However, several birds died during confinement. Exotic and his employees were accused of animal cruelty by killing emus with shotguns by local authorities and police. The G.W. Zoo faced various warnings for violations of the Animal Welfare Act from the United States Department of Agriculture.
In 2006, PETA released a videotape made by an undercover investigator at the zoo. Exotic was alleged to starve animals, kicking and punching them regularly, spurted them with cold water and hit them with spades and gravel. He also faced a lawsuit by Carole Baskin in 2011 for a trademark violation. She sued Joe for $1million for using the name “Big Cat Rescue” and emblem in his shows. She eventually won the civil suit against him leaving Joe bankrupt.
In 2012, another video was resealed by the Human Society of the United States, in which Exotic is seen instructing the employees to hit cubs if they don’t walk, a tiger being brutally dragged, and other cats being.
In 2013, fire exploded in the alligator compound of his zoo leaving all the alligators boiled alive except one. His TV studio was also badly burnt in the accident. Joe accused an animal activist of starting a fire to shut his studio. In 2014, the zoo was notified for providing insufficient animal care by USDA.
Joe Exotic Sentenced to Jail
In January 2020 Joe was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Joe Exotic had 8 breaches of the Lacey Act which is a conservation law introduced by a Republican Congressman John F. Lacey, that was introduced back in 1900 where the intent was to allow for criminal and civil penalties in order to restore wildlife in parts of the US. The law makes it illegal to import, export, commercial transact either in the US or overseas of fish, wildlife and plants. Most famously, in 2011 the famous Gibson Guitar was raided for violating the Lacey act for using specific wood in its guitar. Joe Exotic has violated this law by falsifying wildlife records where he stated that the tigers were being donated for exhibition only when in fact they were sold for profit. For this he was sentenced to 48 months of jail time.
The second violation was for breaching the Endangered Species Act which was signed by President Nixon in 1973 where the purpose is to prevent extinction of endangered species and to recover species where protection is no longer needed. For Joe, he had violated this law by killing 5 tigers in October 2017 without a veterinary being present for which he got 12 months to serve in prison.
Finally, Joe received a sentence of additional 18 years for hiring a hitman to kill Carole Baskin. This was from two counts of hire-for murder for which one case he was convicted for giving $3000 to an employee at his Zoo, Allen Glover, and a second case where Joe was caught hiring an undercover agent as a hitman.
Joe has said he’s remorseful on the way he mistreated animals. He made no statement of remorse on Carole Baskin.
Joe Exotic was an ambitious country singer. He was making moves to establish himself as an online celebrity by persistent production of music videos. However, Joe did not sing the songs himself. He hustled the songs from other country singers and contributed to proposing topics for songs and singing some backing choruses. The songs were written by the band Clinton Johnson Band which had two singer-song writers Danny Clinton and Vince Johnson who was promised exposure on a reality TV show that was originally being developed but never aired due to lost footage.
Joe got the music and then produced music videos of himself lip-syncing the popular songs, portraying himself as an actual performer without even informing the original singers and published them on YouTube.
He released a provocative video song “Here Kitty Kitty” against his nemesis Carole Baskin in 2015. Carole Baskin had a skeleton in her closet. Her husband Don Lewis went missing in 1997 and announced dead in 2002. People alleged that she fed him to her tigers. Joe used this as inspiration for his song and used a doppelganger who was seen feeding her husband to tigers.
His other songs include “You can (and I did)”, “Pretty Woman Lover”, presenting Joe being mauled by models with skimpy clothing, “How was I to Know” a gentle track features Joe grieving about his misguided love at his splitting with husband, John. Then there are happy songs too like “My First Love” shot in snow, “This is My Life” a slow sentimental song that manifests “My true loves were men, but I am just like you”.
Another song “You Can’t Believe” is inspired by the story of Ohio’s Terry Thompson who released his three dozen tigers and lions and other exotic animals before committing suicide. Joe made the song to imply that Thompson was killed by a clandestine network to dishonor the private zoo freehold. The video depicts men in uniform wearing masks taking a blindfolded duplicate of Thompson into the glade and jabbing gun into his mouth.
Despite his bizarre music sense, there is one song that is closely linked to his personal life, “I Saw a Tiger”. It is about being astonished by the heart-stopping magnificence of big cats.
The G.W. Zoo
In October 1997, his brother Garold died in the drunk driver accident. The family bequeathed $140,000 on the account of Garold’s death. At first, they decided to spend the money to open a soccer park in Garold’s honor, but exotic convince the family and bought sixteen acres of land in the south of Oklahoma City. He turned the land into animal preserve by building nine steel cages in rows for big cats. In 1999, he opened the zoo named “The Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park” in the memory of his beloved brother.
The G.W. Zoo is the world’s biggest private zoo rearing over 230 animals including big cats such as tigers, puma, ligers, and lions. It is a home for more than 50 animal species as well. The zoo is licensed by the State of Oklahoma as a rendering facility. With the increasing popularity of his tigers, Joe started to breed them excessively and increased buying new animals. Joe claimed himself as “Tiger King” the largest tiger breeder of the U.S.
New owner of G.W. Zoo
In 2016, a South Carolina businessman, Jeff Lowe purchased the zoo. He was a former business partner of Joe Exotic and has been imprisoned in the past for mail fraud. In 2019, Jeff decided to close the zoo and shift the animals to Thackerville Oklahoma which is planned to be opened by end of 2020
Joe Exotic for President
Joe also gave a shot at politics. He ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 election for President of the United States. He obtained ballot access in Colorado and secure 962 votes countrywide.
After the failed attempt at the presidency, Joe also unsuccessfully ran for the 2018 election for Governor of Oklahoma. He ran under the name “Joe Exotic” in the primary election for the Libertarian Party. He stood against Chris Powell and Rex L. Lawhorn. He received 664 votes overall and ranked last among the three candidates. This heart-breaking failure put a full stop on his political career for once and for all.
Joe has lately sued the United States Federal Government and United States Fish and Wildlife Service for $94 million over the loss of personal assets and approximately 20 years of research and safekeeping of generic and mixed-breeds tigers for 365 days per year. In the lawsuit, he demands the $79 million for the loss of his tigers and other damages done by USFWS, and an additional amount of $15 million for unlawful imprisonment and listing of other charges together with the death of his mother Shirley.
He also made an allegation against two agencies for deliberately targeting him by putting generic tigers on the list of endangered species to harm his business. He has also filed a lawsuit against his ex-business partner Jeff Lowe indicting him for swapping his medicine with drugs and destroying his assets.
Netflix Documentary The Tiger King
On March 20, 2020, Netflix released a true-crime documentary based on his life named “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness”. The eight-part miniseries spins around the spicy feud of animal rights activist and owner of “Big Cat Rescue” Carol Baskin and Zookeeper Joe Exotic, who was accused of mistreating wild animals.
The Series received a positive response from critics. According to Nielsen TV Ratings, it has 34.3 million views within the first ten days of release. A vast number of people visited the zoo after the documentary came out and visitors kept on increasing. On March 31, 2020, due to the outbreak, Coronavirus pandemic, the zoo was shut down on the orders of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. It will remain closed to avoid unnecessary crowds until further orders.
In March 2020, he planned to represent himself in litigation to get a presidential pardon from Donald Trump for running in the 2016 election for President of the United States.
He is a prominent name in wildlife rescue and has a large social media following with 385k Instagram followers and a YouTube channel named “JoeExoticTV” with 321k subscribers and uploads videos from the zoo. He had also built a television studio at the zoo and regularly broadcast episodes of Joe Exotic TV on his website. His followers are still growing.