How to Start a Tiger Cult Like Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’

What cult business secrets can we learn from ‘Big Cat Rescue’ and the ‘Tiger king?’ The Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’ exposes the grimy underworld of private zoos and big cat rescues.  These strange organizations don’t function like normal businesses, however.  I would say that a normal business sails ‘close to the coast’ of the socially acceptable.  But Big cat rescues, on the other hand, operate on the fringe of the wild.  I would even go so far as to say, they operate like cults. No, scratch that. They are full-blown cults.

Firstly the ‘Tiger King’ Netflix documentary is very good. I watched the whole thing.  If you haven’t seen it I suggest you watch it. However, for the purpose of the information I’m about to layout it won’t be entirely necessary. I’ve summed up all the juicy details. Don’t worry.

Having said all that, all you need to understand are two things.  Firstly, there are organizations taking care of big cats.  Hence the term I coin as ‘big cat rescue.’ Secondly, these organizations are not at all what any of us expected them to be.  What they actually are is downright crooked.  These organizations are businesses.  However, they are businesses that are somehow able to command a superior level of devotion.  This level of devotion I can only compare to as cults.  For that reason, I’ve created this in-depth analysis of what exactly these organizations do: to attract devotees, to craft their image, to monetize, and to grow their following.  I call this the ‘Tiger Cult Method.’


What is the Tiger Cult Method?

The tiger cult method is a compilation of the many cult-branding strategies taken from the big cat organizations I saw in the Netflix Documentary ‘Tiger King’. They are heavily cult branded.  What I focus on is the odd way these organizations function.  They craft very strong branded messages for the public and conjure intense devotional adherence from its staff.

Benefits of the Tiger Cult Method

1)Low cost of Labor

From this documentary, we see that most of the businesses offer very little to their employees.  Instead of payment, they offer meaning.  They offer a strong community and a sense of duty.  As a result of this these organizations are able to greatly reduce their payroll costs.  People practically work for free and long hours.

2)High Attention Assets

Tigers are products in this business. A big cat is literally lightning in a bottle. Put them in front of a camera and you can’t go wrong.  They are instant social media fodder.  High attention assets are easy ways to win on Instagram. Flash some bling-bling and you’re as good as gold.

3)Gain God-like status

Tigers are a very particular sort of commodity.  They are some of nature’s top predators.  A big cat rescue boss is the sole proprietor of these living monsters.  Very quickly one gains an air of majestic power. As if they command the very the animals themselves.  It is incredibly alluring.

Click here to learn what a cult is 

Understanding the Religion of the Predator

From Myrtle Beach Safari to G.W. Zoo to Big Cat Rescue. All of these organizations have one deity in common.  Tigers.

  Why do Tigers invoke cult-like devotion?

Whenever you bring tigers into a business, there must be a ritualistic adherence to basic principles.  This is important because tigers are dangerous animals.  Tigers and humans have always been at odds. War namely exists between our species.  So they conjure the need to obey the utmost care.  As we see when the zookeeper at G.W. Zoo gets her arm friggin bitten off.  She didn’t respect the spirit of the big cat.  Therefore to involve tigers requires ritualistic care and devotion.

Loggers in India and Tiger Masks

Take for instance the case of Tiger attacks amount loggers in the mangrove swamps of the Ganges river delta.   Businesses that sprang up around the tiger’s natural habitat instantly became incredibly hazardous.  Employees were being viciously attacked and often killed.  When Tiger attacks were becoming more and more frequent it becomes difficult to conduct business. How did these businesses prevail?  One answer: The Tiger Cult Method.

Employees found that by wearing masks on the other side of their heads they were able to deter Tiger attacks.  For some reason, a mask on the back of your head fools Tigers, who are ambush predators,  into thinking that their prey is looking at them and their cover is blown.  This seemed to work! Soon all of the cases of the Tiger attacks declined.   As a result, the rest of the surrounding communities followed suit.

To an outsider, it may have seemed odd that hundreds to thousands of villagers in the area would go about their daily lives wearing masks on the other sides of their heads.  However, this goes to show how much ritualistic significance the presence of big cats stir up.  They command a special adherence in and of themselves to a level of religious devotion.

The Divine Liturgy of  Tigers

Tiger Cult deity

Tigers invoke primal power.  Humankind has been evolutionarily hardwired to be on the lookout for these things.

In the epic book Life of Pi, a young boy is set afloat at sea with a wild tiger.  I don’t want to ruin it for you, but this book explores the theological representations and definitions of God as through a Tiger allegory.  

Understand the power that a big cat (or predator) has in affecting the human mind.  

Cult Techniques 

Anyone who has seen the ‘Tiger King’ Netflix series can attest.  This business attracts the oddest sort of misfits that the world has ever seen.  The reason for this is everything that I’d explained previously.  Big cats draw the primal nature out of people.

1)Craft a “Cause”

Big Cat Rescues are all about ‘the cause.’ Now, what is ‘the cause?’ The cause is the fluffy ideology of every single one of these organizations.  That is education, conservationism, environmentalism, and protecting big cats. However, the cause doesn’t actually need to go beyond declaration.  As per reports by directors Joe Exotic owner of G.W. zoo was abusive to the big cats. These organizations claimed to be sanctuaries for these exotic creatures. However, the cause seemed to just be a front. It allowed them to hoodwink consumers. Protecting Tigers was never the intention.

Leaders found that “a cause” to get behind invoked the moral high ground

Conservation is the idea that most of these big cat rescues fell behind as a message. Saving and preserving the welfare of these animals is the prevailing ideology. We hear it throughout the videos.  Preservation, education, conservation, etc. However as it turns out, none of these things were the primary goal of these organizations. There were even reports of the directors that said Joe Exotic was abusive to the big cats. 

 Why were employees were working long hours for practically nothing then?  It was because of the cause. Or at least the idea of it.  

“It’s the perception of deeper meaning and purpose which drives your tiger cult.”

 One of the employees at Joe Exotics zoo got her arm bitten off by a big cat.  Less than a week later she was back at work. When she was later interviewed as to why she went back to work she pledged to “the cause” of the animal rescue.  Being a part of these cults gives people a sense of power to involve themselves in organizations.  Everyone wants to ‘change the world.’ Nobody likes to think that their work is all in vain.  Employers know that the best way to motivate an employee is not by raising his/her wage.  It’s by tying that job to a deeper more transcendental meaning. Workers want to go beyond work. 

Big cat rescue training Gamification

In the Netflix documentary, we saw that Big Cat Rescue attendees are steered through a training program.  This training program, we come to find out, is made up of volunteers.  People are either paid very little or not at all.  They are also expected to work on holidays.  

 Many cults use particular uniforms to distinguish themselves.  Big Cat Rescue is no exception.  They have etched out a distinct hierarchy which outlines the internal rank and file: 

Redshirts– beginner

Yellow shirt-Intermediate

Green shirt– Two Years

Navy Blue– Master keeper

 It wasn’t the good pay which kept volunteers at these big cat rescue zoos.  People honestly believed that what they were doing was right.  The idea of conservation and ‘saving’ endangered species is a noble cause. However, it was clear that they were being somewhat exploited for their labor. This is why big cat rescues & private zoos were able to hoodwink people into working long hours for them.

“(Carol Baskin)She can make everybody else think they are abusers but her.”

2)Create a Cult of Personality

We can’t begin to start describing these organizations without first referring to their leaders.  Part of the attraction to the Tiger Cult is the incredibly extraordinary character of its owners.

Joe Exotic fashioned himself as the ‘Tiger King.’  He paraded around his massive compound in flamboyant attire.  The man was loud and controversial.

“People like Joe have an amazing grip over people generating an effection and devotion that is totally irrational”

G.W. Zoo “Tiger King” Cult of Personality

Joe Exotic clearly manipulated his workers. We see this in how he was giving his husband meth.  He finds people with no family no place to go. Joe hired people who were getting out of prison. 

 He definitely commanded a sort of allegiance to him.  When one of the attendants, Kelci Safferv, got her arm ripped off she was back within a week.  This was because she didn’t want to besmirch the character of the park and its leader.  People are afraid to talk badly because they become enamored by their leader.

“If this is all they’ve got then they’ll work hard enough to keep it.”

-Kelci Safferv

In the documentary, it said that Joe paid his staff $150 a week to work 10-12 hour days.  He didn’t only abuse the employees in this way but all also abused the animals.  Joe was investigated by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs.  But the brainwashing tactics continued.  In pro-conservation rhetoric. In another news article Joe Exotic says he will be releasing an album to help fund Tigers in the wild.

3) Brainwash the masses

The truth of the matter is that people don’t like seeing majestic animals in cages.  Animals are meant to run free in the wild.  So convincing the mass public to get on board with exploiting Tigers for commercial gain takes some finesse.

I believe that Carol Baskin used the Big Cat Public Safety Act to further her own gain.  Even though it was put in place in order to enforce a “conservationist” approach to handling big cat rescue organizations.   It came as no surprise that this bill which she helped push greatly helped to solidify her brand. By “fighting” for the rights of big cats she set her self up for success while pushing for the legislature that would shatter others in the industry.  Not only did it allow her to brand herself as ‘the virtuous’ big cat rescue CEO.  It also pushed out all of the competition.  Brought the entire industry to its knees while she remained unscathed.

Jab, Jab, Jab Right hook Tiger Cult Marketing

Tiger rescue industry leaders tried to convince Congress not to sign the Big cat public safety act bill.  In order to do this, they used a common marketing ploy.  This marketing gimmick was developed by Gary Vaynerchuck.  It is called Jab, jab, jab Right hook.   A right hook aims to sell and self-promote and a jab aims to engage and trigger an emotional response.

   Baby tigers were actually brought through the halls of congress to trigger an emotional response from the representatives.  Then industry leaders tried to convince them to oppose the big cat safety act. Exposure endears people to your business.  This had worked for many years.  It was why the film suggested that these organizations were exploiting cubs for money and then euthanizing them when they got too old.

4) Create the Promised Land

The Ashram of  Bhagavan Atle


The Apprentice Program:  Controlling the Cultural Identity

  After watching the Netflix documentary I wanted to read more.  I pulled up this article on a former attendant called “How to make an extremist”. I was shocked when I read how it was about an old attendant who worked at Doc Antles park. She was a part of this weird “apprentice” program. 

  This particular apprentice describes how she was brainwashed.  She worked long hours for little to no pay. From this, it was apparent that the methods being employed at the rescue went beyond mere tiger conservation. As a matter of fact, it is clear that Doc Antle was trying to create some sort of Ashram.  He used a lot of mystical yogic words.  Attendees referred to him as “Bhagavan” which means “Lord.”  

  Attendees in the apprentice program were made to erase their personal history. This is because a part of joining a cult comes with throwing away your old identity.  This allows individuals to recreate their “new” identity around the cult or “family.” The cultural identity is what causes a person to be far more invested in the group.  It allows the cult leader to have more control over the subjects.  

“I was still in the process of erasing my previous self and building one better suited to my new goals and family.”

  In the Netflix documentary, we even come to find out that he had urged all his wives to change their names. His first wife that goes by the name China York was once Michelle.  His second wife that goes by Mokha was once Meridith and so on and so on.

Tigers have sex appeal

 Big cats have primordial power.  Doc was able to tap into the allure of these majestic animals.  From there he could contort reality as he saw fit. Women were incredibly drawn to the seductive power.  He also manipulates them.  He pushed them to get breast augmentation surgery and to weary skimpy sexy clothes.

“I was really looking for somebody to tell me what to do.”

-Barbara Fischer (Ex Apprentice)

  Doc Antle owns what he calls The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S). This is a 50-acre preserve in South Myrtle Beach.  It is here that he runs his very own Safari called “Myrtle Beach Safari.” While Tigers claims to be a “wildlife preservation organization dedicated to promoting global conservation through entertaining and interactive programs.”

 However, Doc Antle was raided by the police in 2019.  It is in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.  Some of the problems at the park included, insufficient space in cages, clean water, and improper veterinary care as from this statement by PETA.

Congratulations! You are Ready to Be the Leader of your Own Tiger Cult

I hope that I’ve armed you with all of the necessary information to start your first Tiger Cult.  People are ignorant about these big cats.  The oblivious public trusts whatever sort of propaganda you throw at them. Remember to always spread the ’cause’ around.  Hopefully, you’ve successfully crafted your cause. 

    After reading this I know it feels like big cat rescues are mere lies.  Leaders are just using the tiger as a commodity. These creatures are nothing more than status symbols to make money.  


The perceived good that comes from running these organizations.  Even at the end of the movie Kelci Safferv says “who suffered was the cats.”

David Ex Machina

David Ex Machina


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