William Nimmo, founder of Tigers in America, assesses “Tiger King”

by | Apr 22, 2020

Owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Stay at Home order, I produced and recorded this show remotely from home, the second program prepared this way at the Talking Animals corporate headquarters in Jupiter Farms, Florida, and likely the way the broadcast will be assembled for the foreseeable future.

William Nimmo—founder of  Tigers in America, a rescue network that has relocated more than 250 tigers from private owners, roadside zoos, and other nefarious operations, to top-tier sanctuaries—recalls his first expedition to pull tigers from a facility that had gone bankrupt, closed and planned to euthanize all the animals. He was then working as a Wall Street investment banker, had no experience with animal rescue, but plucking and placing the seven tigers in two sanctuaries was a success. Some months later, he says, he got another call about a different situation, where both tigers and people were in peril, including the desperate owner of the tigers. Again, Nimmo and colleagues successfully intervened, and the calls kept coming—and haven’t stopped. But the chief reason for the conversation was to ask Nimmo, arguably the country’s top expert on captive tigers, to assess “Tiger King”–the Netflix docu-series that generated tons of chatter on social media, countless instant experts, a long string of think pieces (and, unfortunately, an equal number of  non-think pieces)—with an eye toward what the series got right, got wrong, and missed altogether. So, he addresses, among other, what Joe Exotic represents, the way the world of black market buying and selling of tigers works, cub petting ventures, and tiger mills. Nimmo also responds to my observation (noted by many others) that “Tiger King” seemed to suggest an equivalency between Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, and others of that ilk and Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin—agreeing that this was really a false equivalency. (And agreeing that Baskin, whom I’ve interviewed five times on “Talking Animals” since 2006, was depicted very poorly, a portrayal permeated by more than a little misogyny.) Nimmo also outlines the criteria for a top-tier tiger sanctuary, describes an encounter with Eric Goode, half the “Tiger King” filmmaking team, who invited Nimmo to be interviewed for the film (an invitation he declined), and recounts the story of buying a zoo—really just a breeding facility—expressly with the purpose, after finding homes for the animals, of shutting the place down. (https://www.tigersinamerica.org/, https://www.facebook.com/TigersInAmerica)

ALSO: I spoke with Scott Trebatoski, director of the Hillsborough County Pet Resources Center, who explained how COVID-19 has affected the shelter, and how it has adapted amidst virus concerns and restrictions, notably the Stay at Home order. This includes altering employees’ schedules (one team spending half the week at the shelter—to care for the animals—while the other team works from home, then switching), offering “Curbside Adoption” of dogs and cats, and noting the tremendous surge in the number of folks who are fostering and adopting…and the corresponding dramatic decline in the shelter’s current animal population. (https://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/en/locations/pet-resource-center, https://www.facebook.com/PRCPets/)



COMEDY CORNER:  Paul F. Tompkins’ “Apologize For Your Dog”  (https://paulftompkins.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” Stephanie Seymour’s “Ruby-crowned Kinglet,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  Joni Mitchell’s  “Black Crow”


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