One moment you’re staring at the bangs of “Joe Exotic” and listening to him go on about the “honor” of “real crooks” (cringe) while doomy acoustic music plays in the background. Then suddenly, the tune changes—the scene cuts to a woman dangerously tugging along an adult tiger with a long, heavy chain that’s secured around the big cat’s neck, all while holding some kind of prod in her hand. Don’t let the lighthearted melody or Zuzana Kukol’s playful “Come on, girl” fool you—the Tiger King 2 subject and self-proclaimed “Eastern European b***h” is no friend to animals.
In episode four of Tiger King 2, viewers are introduced to Kukol, who operates an outfit called REXANO (which paradoxically stands for Responsible EXotic ANimal Ownership) that supports and promotes owning tigers and other big cats. Much like shoddy roadside zoos that slap words like “sanctuary” or “rescue” onto the end of their name, Kukol and REXANO seem to hope that their use of the term “Responsible” might manipulate the public. But PETA’s not falling for it, and with a little background information, neither will you.
The one thing PETA and Kukol can agree on: As the big-cat exploiter herself says in Tiger King 2, “Jeff Lowe is [an] opportunist.” But we think she could use a good, long look in the mirror, too.
“When Jeff Lowe came to Nevada … we were actually butchering horse that day,” Kukol recalled on the show. (On her REXANO website, she disturbingly reminiscences about the way she “spent most of her life being hands on with animals, starting as a kid and teenager riding horses.”) The roadside zoo owner then tosses a piece of apparent horse carcass into the enclosure of an adult lion named Bam-Bam, which any big-cat expert will tell you is definitely not responsible—it’s actually extremely dangerous, as the animal could chomp on Kukol’s hand as she sticks it through the open gate or even push past her (surely an easy task for the apex predator) and escape and/or severely injure her and others. “Oh, was it you at McDonald’s with baby tiger?” Kukol remembers being asked that day. Lowe—a notorious animal exhibitor, a Tiger King seasons one and two subject, and someone PETA has been helping to put out of business for years—had apparently patronized a McDonald’s drive-through while a tiger cub roamed free inside his car. “It seems like [Lowe] never did it correctly with exotic animals,” Kukol criticized.
And while we agree that Lowe is a tormentor who should never be allowed near big cats or other animals again, Kukol’s feigning of some sort of superiority is an eye-roller. There’s no way to exploit animals correctly.
“Animals are personal property,” REXANO touts on its website.
History has shown us how Lowe regards tigers and other animals as things to use and abuse. And Kukol’s REXANO manifesto is chock-full of ideals that echo Lowe’s and other exotic-animal exploiters’ notions, like this ☝️ gem. One of the reasons she should be allowed to “ship” big cats around, according to her, is for “personal enjoyment.” Her support of exploiting tigers and others in circuses and of declawing big cats (which violates the Endangered Species Act, a notion that a PETA lawsuit set precedent for) and/or cruelly removing their teeth is particularly telling, too.
The only truly responsible thing to do for big cats is to leave them be.
Don’t be fooled by fake “sanctuaries” or “rescues” or by tall tales about “responsible” big-cat “ownership.” Kukol, Lowe, Tim Stark, and “Joe Exotic” aren’t tiger kings or queens—they’re tiger terrorizers. Both seasons of Tiger King are full of villains who will inspire you to stay away from roadside zoos and support the much-needed Big Cat Public Safety Act. Click below to learn how you can take even more action for tigers: