Tiger Queen? How Carole Baskin Won Another Legal Victory Against Joe Exotic

On Monday, Carole Baskin notched another victory in her long running feud with convicted felon and so called “Tiger King” Joe Exotic. This time she nabbed the biggest prize of all: his former zoo.

Baskin’s feud with Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, was the subject of the hit Netflix docuseries “The Tiger King.” The series, released in the early days of the pandemic, became a cultural phenomenon, making both Baskin and her nemesis Joe Exotic, household names. 

Baskin’s order was part of the lawsuit she had filed against the Greater Wynnewood Development Group, LLC (GWDC), the company formerly owned by Maldanado-Passage. In 2011, Maldanado-Passage lost a trademark infringement suit to Baskin, and he was was ordered to pay her $1 million. Baskin filed a subsequent lawsuit in 2016 that asserted Maldanado-Passage had unlawfully transferred the property, located in Garvin County, Oklahoma, to his mother.

The order by the federal judge in Oklahoma City on Monday relates to that lawsuit and requires that the zoo, along with some other properties and vehicles, be transferred to Baskin. The order further states that GWDC must “vacate the Zoo Land premises within 120 days of service of this Order …Vacation of premises shall also require removal of all zoo animals from the Zoo Land.”

Virus Outbreak Texas

A man looks at a mural depicting Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” in Dallas, … [+] Friday, April 10, 2020. The Netflix series “Tiger King,” has become popular watching during the COVID-19 outbreak. Maldonado-Passage was convicted in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot. (AP Photo/LM Otero)


The most recent court victory continues a string of legal triumphs for Baskin, who owns her own animal sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, near Tampa, Florida. Last year Maldanado-Passage was convicted of allegedly paying a hit man to murder Baskin in retribution for her long-running social media campaign against him – a campaign he asserts was intended to destroy his business. Maldanado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for the murder-for-hire conviction, as well as other crimes related to animal abuse.

Baskin, who makes no apologies for her feud with Maldanado-Passage, is a controversial figure in her own right. The Netflix docuseries did not paint the animal sanctuary owner and purported animal rights activist in a flattering light, leaving her to post multiple YouTube videos defending herself from accusations that spawned from the docuseries.

Nonetheless, it does seem that Baskin has continuously gotten the upper hand on her rival Joe Exotic. So the question is, how has she done it?

The answer is remarkably unexotic. First, she effectively used social media. She has over 1.18 million YouTube followers, 332,000 Twitter followers, and a social media following that far outsized the size of her organization. It was this social media strategy that ultimately is what frustrated Joe Exotic, and as she argues, pushed him to fight back. She even has a TikTok account with over 2.2 million likes. Baskin also owns a myriad of websites and online content. So for as saucy as the Netflix series was, the before Baskin became a social media phenomenon, she knew how to use social media phenomenally.

Baskin’s second boring, but effective, strategy has been in the courtroom. From the trademark infringement lawsuit to the relentless effort to collect the damages from Maldanado-Passage, Baskin didn’t need to be the tiger queen herself. She just needed some fierce layers in the courtroom. So that’s what she did. And as a result, she now has Joe Exotic’s zoo.

Sometimes real stories are even more dramatic than the fictional ones, and that certainly is the case with the story of Joe Exotic. But as Carole Baskin claimed another victory in her long running feud with the Tiger King, perhaps the most important lesson is that it is the boring stuff, not the exotic stuff, that helps you make a killing.

And you don’t need to be a big cat to follow that advice.

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