Zookeeper Accused Of Killing Five Tigers And Selling Cubs

A former Oklahoma zookeeper has been charged with killing five tigers and selling animal cubs.

The 19 charges against the 55-year-old were unsealed by a federal grand jury on Wednesday.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage,  known as 'Joe Exotic', previously worked at a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.

He is accused of killing the tigers in October 2017 to "make room for cage space for other big cats" the U.S Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma said.

Between November 2016 and March 2018, Maldonaldo-Passage is alleged to have falsified records of wildlife transactions, claiming to have donated tigers, lions and a baby lemur to the recipient or transported for exhibition only.

The Attorney's Office claim he knew they were being sold for "interstate commerce".

The arrest was made after a joint investigation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the FBI, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

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Joseph Maldonaldo-Passage

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He has been held in custody since September after being charged for allegedly trying to hire someone to murder the female operator of an animal sanctuary in Florida.

The U.S. Attorney for Western District alleges Maldonaldo-Passage offered to pay an unnamed paid $3,000USD ($4,100AUD) to travel to Florida to kill the woman.

A promise of thousands more would be paid once the murder had taken place.

Earlier this year Maldonado-Passage unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Oklahoma.