Erik Cowie death: Tiger King zookeeper found dead aged 53

By Peony Hirwani

Eric Cowie, a zookeeper who featured in Netflix’s Tiger King, died on Friday 3 September aged 53.

According to NBC News 4 New York, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment bedroom at 5:30pm local time and was unconscious when first responders arrived on the scene.

No cause of death has yet been disclosed.

Cowie was one of the zookeepers who looked after the exotic animals at the now-defunct Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, which was formerly owned by Joe Exotic, who is currently serving a 22-year sentence for plotting to kill Carole Baskin and other wildlife violations.

Earlier this year, Cowie opened up about his regrets working with the eccentric tiger trader Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, claiming that he feels guilty after being instructed to put down animals for no good reason.

“It’s been in the back of my head,” Cowie said. “I think about it a lot – a lot of times when we put cats down, they used me because just my appearance or my voice [meant] I could get a cat up the side of the cage where we can dart it and tranquilise it.

“Those cats trusted me up until the end. Sometimes, I swear they’re like, ‘Dude you let me down.’”

Cowie also testified against Exotic at trial, alleging that older tigers were shot and killed at the zoo.

According to TMZ, the late zookeeper was arrested for DUI after a car accident in Oklahoma in May 2021. He pleaded guilty and was supposed to appear in court for sentencing but never did.

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