Erik Cowie, ‘Tiger King’ Zookeeper, Dies at 52

Cowie was a caretaker for Joe Exotic’s wild cats and featured in the Netflix limited series

erik cowie tiger king netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

Erik Cowie, one of the zookeepers featured on Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” series, has died, according to TMZ. Cowie’s body was reportedly discovered in New York City last Friday. According to the NYPD report obtained by TheWrap, he was 52 years old.

The report read: “On September 3, 2021 at 1730 hours police responded to a 911 call of a unconscious male inside of 21 East 55 Street in the confines of the 67 Pct. Upon arrival police discovered a 52 year old male unconscious in the bedroom of the location. EMS was on scene and pronounced the male deceased. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death. The identification of the deceased is pending family notification.”

Cowie was the head zookeeper at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, which was owned and operated by Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic. Exotic’s rise and fall as the “Tiger King” was documented in the hit limited series from Netflix last year.

Cowie testified against Exotic during his trial for attempted murder, and said older tigers were shot and killed at the park under Exotic’s supervision. “Those cats trusted me and so they could look me in the eye when they died,” Cowie said in one of the docuseries’ most chilling lines.

Cowie remained at the zoo after it was taken over by Jeff Lowe. It’s unclear what happened to him after the show aired in 2020 and why he was in New York City at the time of his death.


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