Who was Erik Cowie? Tiger King 2 ends with tribute to zookeeper

Cowie featured as a subject in the original Tiger King documentary.

Erik Cowie Tiger King zookeeper dies

Almost two years since it became a surprise global phenomenon, Tiger King has returned for its second season on Netflix, which ends with a tribute to one of the contributors to the original series.

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That first batch of episodes delved into the rivalry between zookeeper Joe Exotic and animal rights activist Carole Baskin, taking viewers behind the scenes at the former’s haphazardly run animal park in Oklahoma.

We heard from several of the employees who worked under Exotic, who is currently serving a 22-year sentence on murder-for-hire and animal abuse charges, one of whom was Erik Cowie (pictured above).

Who was Erik Cowie?

Cowie was a zookeeper who worked for Joe Exotic at his animal park in Greater Wynnewood, Oklahoma, helping to manage the big cats that lived at the enclosure.

At one point, Cowie supported Exotic as he weathered criticism against those who questioned his ownership of the animal park, but this changed after the extent of his boss’ crimes was revealed.

Ultimately, he testified against him in court as animal abuse charges were brought against Exotic, claiming that he had seen Exotic have certain animals killed.

In Netflix’s follow-up special, The Tiger King and I, Cowie gave a firm and unhesitant response to the question of whether Exotic should be released from prison: “F**k no.”

He added that he was haunted by his role in the death of some of Exotic’s animals: “Those cats trusted me up until the end, and somehow, sometimes I swear they’re like, ‘Dude, you let me down’ kinda thing. I could see it in their face and their eyes.”

He continued working at the GW Exotic Animal Park after Exotic’s arrest, when it briefly changed hands to business associate Jeff Lowe, before closing its doors permanently in August 2020.

Erik Cowie cause of death

Tragically, Cowie passed away roughly one year after the closure of the GW Exotic Animal Park, with his body being discovered by police in a Brooklyn apartment on Friday 3rd September 2021.

He was pronounced dead on the scene, with the NYC Medical Examiner’s office announcing the following month that the cause of death was acute and chronic alcohol use.

Cowie had discussed his struggles with alcohol in the original Tiger King documentary, which was released on Netflix on 20th March 2020.

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Tiger King 2 is available to stream on Netflix. Check out more of our Documentaries coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.