Star of Netflix's Tiger King found dead aged 53

By Sara Aisha-Kent & Ryan Paton

One of the zookeepers in Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness has been found dead at the age of 53.

Erik Cowie appeared on the hit documentary series - which explored the world of big cat breeding and followed the stories of eccentric characters such as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.

Erik, who was a tiger handler at the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma, was found dead at a property in New York City on Friday Night, according to reports from TMZ.

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It is understood a toxicology test will be performed by a medical examiner - but sources say there was "nothing suspicious about the death at this point and no drugs were found on the scene" - as Mirror Online reports.

Tiger handler Erik was the head zookeeper for five years at Joe Exotic's zoo.

He took part in several interviews during the show and often told that the animals were his main focus at the controversial zoo.

As shown in the series, he also went on to testify at Exotic’s trial where he alleged older tigers were shot and killed at the zoo.

Erik starred on the reunion episode, The Tiger King And I, and made it clear that he was not a fan of Joe Exotic.

After being asked if he thinks Exotic should be released, Cowie said: “No. Not no, but f*** no.”

He added, with a laugh: “Twenty-two years doing federal time – that guy’s gonna die in there. Good riddance.

“I am pretty sure they don’t have Netflix in there so he won’t get to see it.”

Controversial figure Joe Exotic is serving a 22-year sentence time for a string of animal abuse charges, including nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.

He was also convicted of trying to hire a hitman to kill Carole Baskin - the owner of Big Cat Rescue.

Erik had previously spoken of how he regretted working with the eccentric tiger trader at the GW Zoo.

He said: “It’s in the back of my head and 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’”

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