Anyone described as ‘The Mother Theresa of Cats’ deserves our attention. Animal rights activist Carole Baskin has been the founder and CEO of Florida animal sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue since 1992, and spent many years engaged in a high-profile campaign to shut down a roadside zoo in Oklahoma. And that’s why everyone is talking about her – that zoo was run by Joe Exotic, the enigmatic subject of Netflix docu-series Tiger King.
Their feud grew so intense that Joe Exotic (real name Joseph Schreibvogel) was eventually convicted with trying to employ the services of two separate hitmen to kill her. Luckily for Baskin, one of those assassins was an undercover FBI agent.
Baskin first took Schreibvogel to court in 2011 and won a million dollar civil lawsuit after accusing his GW Exotic Animal Park of using similar trademarks to her own company. While Schreibvogel liked to claim that there were similarities between his zoo and Baskin’s sanctuary, she remained adamant that his business was unethical and cruel, while her organisation was set up purely to protect animals in desperate need.
She continued to tried to close him down, alongside animal charity PETA. Little did she know that he was hell-bent on revenge by this stage, even if that meant hiring someone to murder her.
While Joe Exotic is now serving a 22 year sentence on two counts of murder for hire and 17 charges of wildlife abuse, Carole Baskin continues her work in wildlife conservation, which began when she was just 17. Having left home at 15, she knew her purpose in life was to help animals and began by taking in bobcats that had been knocked down by cars, and nursing them back to health.
After building a lucrative property business through buying and selling houses, Baskin was enjoying the life of a successful entrepreneur. She stumbled into opening her not-for-profit sanctuary when she saved bobcat kittens from a fur farm, knowing that they would be slaughtered if she didn’t take them away with her right there and then. Since opening Big Cat Rescue, Baskin has remained outspoken on animal rights issues and has even managed to bring in new laws to stop animals being traded and abused.
Baskin’s story is also the subject of season two of true crime podcast, Over My Dead Body, which is being adapted into a TV mini-series (channel TBC). Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon will play Baskin.
Tiger King drops on Netflix on 20th March