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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue became even more famous during the pandemic with the Netflix series “Tiger King”. Baskin was portrayed as the nemesis of “Joe Exotic” on the series.
“Joe Exotic” is really Joseph Allen Maldonado, who is now serving a life sentence for a plot to have Baskin killed.
On Wednesday, Baskin and her husband Howard announced they would be “merging” with a facility in Arkansas and sending all of their big cats there.
On Thursday, the owners of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge said their agreement with the Baskins is not a “merger” but they have entered in an agreement with Big Cat Rescue to accept 35 of their animals and care for them for the rest of their lives.
Tanya Smith is the Founder and President of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and says she first started working with the Baskins in 2016 on legislation governing the care of Big Cats in the United States.
“We aligned ourselves with Big Cat Rescue many years ago, the big thing about Carole and Howard Baskin is that they worked really hard to get the big cat public safety act passed” said Smith.
She says she and her husband were later invited to Tampa by the Baskins to see their facility.
“While we were there they approached us about actually bringing, our animals, you know we told them we have 460 acres here. We are already in the middle of a capital campaign to build out a 13-acre area,” said Smith.
She said the Baskins have agreed to help fund their expansion in return for taking on their animals.
“They will fund 2/3 of our project, and it’s about a $2.5 million expense, so about $1.8 million they are going to be able to build out the cats cages here at Turpentine Creek Wildlife refuge,” said Smith.
She says the Baskins are preparing to sell their property north of Tampa.
“Their plan is that I know they are going to sell the property to a developer and be able to take those monies and be able to start helping those animals in the wild,” Smith said, adding “you know Howard is 73 and Carole is 62 and they are pre-planning to take care of the animals as they move forward.”
She says all of their animals will now be well cared for.
“It just seems like it’s meant to be and we can actually be able to bring those animals here and house them on the most beautiful piece of property you’ve ever seen,” said Smith.