Carolina Tiger Rescue responds to hoopla surrounding hit Netflix series 'Tiger King'

PITTSBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- You can't escape the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King." The hit show is everywhere, including all over social media.

Everyone's talking about the lead characters - Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, and Carole Baskin.

But the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro isn't impressed.

Katie Cannon is the education director at the rescue. We talked with her over Facetime. She's wearing a mask, noting they have started doing so to protect the tigers in their sanctuary after a tiger at a Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19.

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"In our opinion, they have sensationalized those characters," Cannon said.

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For 45 years, Carolina Tiger Rescue has been a refuge that allows big cats and other animals to live out their lives in safety.

She says the limited series on Netflix, which was released in late March, missed an opportunity to educate, particularly on cub petting.

"Although this was mentioned, I think it was lost in the other stories they told."

Cub petting, the sanctuary says, is when cubs are taken from their mothers for pictures. The cubs are used until they become too big, then they are sold, sent to sanctuaries, or euthanized, all for the sake of profit.

"We've luckily been able to avoid a lot of the hoopla around it if you will," Cannon said.
"You say luckily. Why luckily?" we ask.

"Because it doesn't actually address the issues. We're here for him (pointing to one of the tigers). We're here to stop cub petting and we're here to educate the public and I don't think it did that."

The Carolina Tiger Rescue is home to 50 animals, including 16 tigers. The annual food budget is $80,000.

"That's not taking into account the upkeep of their enclosures that's not medical stuff, that's not staff, that's simply just food."

Carolina Tiger Rescue hosts a Facebook live stream every day starting at 9:30 a.m. Viewers can learn more about the facility and the big cats.

We asked if the nonprofit was worried about donations dwindling because of COVID-19. They said they have reserve funds, but are thinking of ways to bring in more money. Thirty percent of their revenue is generated through tours, which have been put off for now.
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