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It seems as though Joe Exotic has changed his mind.

The former zoo owner – who became a huge star during lockdown thanks to Netflix docu-series Tiger King – now believes animals such as tigers should be allowed to roam around freely in a huge U-turn on his previous outlook.

The reality star's prison sentence was what changed his mind about keeping wild cats in captivity after knowing what it's like to be caged himself.

The 57-year-old – real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage – is serving 22 years for plotting to have his rival Carole Baskin murdered, as well as a string of animal cruelty charges.

Joe Exotic says he now believes animals should be allowed to roam freely
(Image: Netflix)

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In an interview with Mariana Van Zeller for her new National Geographic docu-series Trafficked, Exotic admitted that his time behind bars has forced him to reflect and reconsider keeping animals in cages.

"I hate to sound like an animal rights person but my whole outlook on animals being in captivity has changed since I have been in jail," he said.

"If I would have known 20 years ago what life inside a cage is like I would never have had a zoo. It doesn't matter if it's a tiger or a gerbil, no animal belongs in a cage."

Exotic is serving 22 years for plotting to have his rival Carole Baskin murdered, as well as a string of animal cruelty charges
(Image: Splash News /

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Exotic – who owned his own zoo in Oklahoma – went on to reflect over the past two decades, adding that he became the "largest breeder and handler of tigers in the United States".

"You are getting the world to pay for your hobby," he said.

"At least I was man enough to say: 'Look, I run a roadside zoo and I breed tigers'."

It comes as his legal team flew to Washington DC for a White House meeting last week after his 257-page application for a pardon was received.

Joe Exotic has kept countless wild animals in cages before his arrest

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The application received support from Donald Trump's son, Donald Jnr, who suggested his father should pardon Joe Exotic “just for the meme”.

When asked whether he would consider pardoning the Tiger King star, President Trump said he would “take a look” into the case.

"I do think he realises for the first time what it is like to be caged because he had never been to prison before," said journalist Mariana Van Zeller, who spoke to the reality star behind bars.

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