Tiger King star Carole Baskin reveals how Netflix show changed her life

Tiger King star Carole Baskin says she suffered "horrible" abuse after the Netflix series aired and that she was lied to about what it would actually be about.

Amid the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the infamous show Tiger King was released to Netflix focusing on eccentric zoo operator Joe Exotic and his rivalry with Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue.

The show spawned headlines, memes and controversy, and Exotic ended up with a 22-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of paying a hitman to kill Baskin and violating the Endangered Species Act. 

On Thursday, Baskin spoke to The AM Show about how her life has changed a year on from the show's premiere.

"Those first three months were really horrible," she said. "The vast majority of the calls and social posts and emails that I was getting were so hateful and I was just shocked that there were people on this planet that were so cruel."

Baskin said she was receiving phone calls every few minutes which meant it was often hard for her to do her job.

"The worst part of it was I am on call 24/7 for bobcats - if they get hit by a car - the person they call is me and bobcats always seem to get hit at 2 o'clock in the morning. I couldn't leave my phone on because I couldn't sleep, it was just constantly ringing for those three months and I can't tell you how many cats were dying as a result of my not being able to take those calls."

She said she is lucky to have a positive mentality which allowed her to get through all the negative attention.

"Thankfully I have a pretty good philosophy on life and that is: no matter what happens, no matter how horrible it might seem at the time, that it was all intended to turn out the way it should, and it is turning out the way it should and is leading us to a higher sense of enlightenment. When this happened, I had to really sit back and go 'alright, it's going to take me a while to figure out why this is going to be a good thing'. But it has managed to do that over the past year, the tide has definitely changed."

The docuseries explored the community of big cat conservationists in the United States and how they cared and displayed the animals to the public.

One of the main plot points of the series was the rivalry between Exotic and Baskin, but Baskin said she had no idea it would turn out how it did.

Joe Exotic.
Joe Exotic. Photo credit: Netflix

She thought the show was going to be an exposé similar to Blackfish, a 2013 film exposing the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity.

"We worked on this [Tiger King] for five years, thinking it was going to be the 'Blackfish' for big cats. That's what we thought we were working on - something that showed how cruel it is - from the very moment these cubs are born and then used as pay and play props so we were more than happy to help them.

"We had no idea they would turn it into this petty feud idea they had. I don't know how they fell on that being their storyline because you have got to have two people fighting in order to have a feud and every time they asked me to say something nasty about him I just wouldn't do it."

She is now urging Exotic to work with law enforcement to bring down other people committing animal abuse.