In March, Netflix released the Tiger King documentary that controversially exposed some “rescues” and zoos as being more concerned with profit than the wellbeing of the animals in their care.

Elephants at a zoo
Photo by Irene Grace Tolentino on Unsplash
Elephants at a zoo
Photo by Irene Grace Tolentino on Unsplash

Whether good or bad, everyone is talking about all the zoos featured in Tiger King. Many of us were torn after watching Tiger King. On one hand, animal encounters can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that we would love to experience. On the other, we care about how organizations treat animals. We don’t want to support zoos that do not look after their animals.

There are options, though. The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredits zoos all across the United States, based on many animal care factors. The AZA is made up of a panel of twelve experts in education in zoo and aquarium operations. The AZA Commission looks at every zoo to make sure it meets their high standards in multiple categories. These categories include living environments, health, and enrichment.

Deer at petting zoo Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Child feeding deer
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

All in proximity to the zoos featured in Tiger King, these four zoos are all accredited through the AZA. We highly recommend checking these out and supporting positive animal care.

Near Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park

1. Oklahoma City Zoo—Oklahoma City, OK

A tiger at the Oklahoma City Zoo
Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
A tiger at the Oklahoma City Zoo
Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma City Zoo is about an hour north of Joe Exotic’s zoo. They commit themselves to three C’s: Connect, Care, and Conserve. The zoo takes care of 54 endangered species and take part in 45 Species Survival Plans. These plans work to prevent species from going extinct. The zoo normally offers unique experiences with zoo animals, including lorikeet feedings. Following coronavirus-related closings, they are offering an Outdoor Safari Walk as the way to visit the park.

Near Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue

2. ZooTampa at Lowry Park—Tampa Bay, FL

Zoo Tampa Manatee exhibit
Photo courtesy of ZooTampa
ZooTampa Manatee exhibit
Photo courtesy of ZooTampa

ZooTampa is only twenty minutes from Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. They commit to the rescue, rehabilitation, and care of animals. The zoo works with a designer to create better environments for the animals. They offer interactive experiences at the zoo, including a behind-the-scenes penguin tour, a tortoise encounter, and a giraffe meet and greet.

Near Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari

3. Riverbanks Zoo—Columbia, SC

Riverbanks Zoo entrance
Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo
Riverbanks Zoo entrance
Photo courtesy of Riverbanks Zoo

The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is less than 3 hours west of Myrtle Beach Safari. It is home to over 2,000 animals on a 170-acre zoo site. The zoo uses research and enrichment programs to find the best ways to care for their animals. The zoo has many interactive experiences. You can feed lorikeets or go through a walkabout exhibit with wallabies and kangaroos.

Near Mario Tabraue’s Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF)

4. Zoo Miami—Miami, FL

Zoo Miami Giraffe Feeding Experience
Photo courtesy of Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami Giraffe Feeding Experience
Photo courtesy of Zoo Miami

Only twenty minutes from ZWF, Zoo Miami is the fifth largest zoo in the United States, housing over 3,000 animals. Zoo Miami commits to conservation and animal care. They take part in about 30 environmental programs yearly across five continents. They offer close-up animal interactions, wildlife training presentations, and hands-on animal feedings.


What did you think of the zoos in Tiger King? Let us know in the comments!

Subscribe to the Travel Aroono newsletter for updates, ideas, tips, and all the tricks to get the most out of your adventures!