TIGER King stars Carole and Howard Baskin pulled in more than $5 million in revenue for their Big Cat Rescue last year and the organization is now worth a staggering $13 million, new figures reveal.
The controversial couple, who have been accused by rival Joe Exotic of cashing in from their Florida sanctuary and getting others to do their "dirty work" for free, paid themselves a modest salary of $140,000 out of the huge revenue.
Financial documents, obtained by The Sun, also show CEO Carole paid a total of $983,195 to 20 staff and contractors in 2019 – despite her own admissions she does not pay any employees to look after the big cats.
According to the Netflix documentary Tiger King, the animals are cared for by volunteers and interns, many working long and grueling hours, including holidays. It's not clear what the roles of the other paid staff members are.
In the documentary series, animal rights activist Carole, who lives at the sanctuary with her husband, admitted: "I don't pay anyone to do animal care, because people will do that for free."
Joe blasted: "How did she brainwash all of those volunteers? She is not a stupid woman, she makes everyone else do her dirty work."
The 990 form for Big Cat Rescue shows Carole paid herself $65,617 for 2019, while Howard was awarded $73,262 for his role of treasurer and secretary, claiming they work 60 hours per week.
Carole’s daughter, Jamie Murdock, who is listed as the charity’s president, was also paid $76,120 for the same hours, while other employees are believed to look after the business side of the charity.
These financial documents show the Tampa organization hires a total of 82 volunteers to care for around 50 big cats who have been abandoned or orphaned and cannot return to the wild.
They also show that since 2015 the charity has received almost $20 million ($19,231,755) in "public support" which includes donations as well as admissions to the rescue and merchandise sales.
The charity made more than $5 million in revenue last year, spending $2,739,802 on animal care, while $138,405 was also given out in contributions and grants to various wildlife causes.
But the documents show Big Cat Rescue added $1,839,239 to the pot in just one year, with the net assets for the nonprofit now at a staggering $13,288,463.
The charity has said previously it "accumulates reserves to weather downturns in the economy, and eventually building an endowment, will be critical to the long term survival of the sanctuary."
Carole has faced numerous accusations since the documentary became a worldwide phenomenon and vehemently denies she fed her ex-husband, Don Lewis, to the tigers at the sanctuary.
Numerous interviewees in the series speculated she is sitting on at least $5 million in inheritance after the real estate tycoon mysteriously vanished back in 1997, baffling law enforcement. He was declared legally dead in 2002 and Carole now runs his business.
The Baskins believed the Tiger King documentary was going to take a close look at animal cruelty, and say they feel "betrayed" by its creators, who chose to focus on Joe’s eccentric personality and wild theories surrounding Don’s mysterious disappearance.
In an episode of Tiger King, Joe blasted Big Cat Rescue, claiming: "Carole Baskin, yup, that lady that profits over $1.5million sucking on your heartstrings about sh** on the internet that ain't even true.
"She's got tens of thousands of people out there brainwashed that we're abusing animals. I just called her a plain-out hypocrite.
"You're open to the public, you're doing boat tours, night tours, day tours, kids tours, kids camps, weddings. You name it. It's a moneymaker for them.
"If you're not f***ing exploiting animals at that point, what the f*** are you doing? Why would you give to a facility to rescue animals to live in luxurious cages?"
Big Cat Rescue, which has been run by Carole since 1992, posted a lengthly statement on its website hitting back at claims the 58 year old doesn’t pay her staff while she makes a huge profit, branding Joe’s comments “idiotic”.
It reads: “Some viewers not familiar with how IRS approved nonprofits operate hear Joe lie and claim Carole ‘makes money’ or ‘profits’ from the sanctuary and that we do not pay our workers.
“Nonprofits have some paid staff. Salaries here are in the 30’s to 60’s. Then they have people who want to do something meaningful for a good cause with their time, so they volunteer their time to help.
“By definition, volunteers are not paid, they donate their time. All sanctuary income, whether it is from tours, donations, or a gift shop, stays in the nonprofit to support its mission.
“Carole gets none of that money, just her salary like the other employees. She works 60+ hours/week and didn’t take a paycheck for the first 20 years of the sanctuary.
“In the first 11 years of the sanctuary she was the largest donor each year. Joe never had volunteers because of the horrible way he treated people.”
The charity added: “About 100 people volunteer to help at the sanctuary because it gives them personal satisfaction to donate their time to caring for the animals and helping us end abuse.
“We also have interns who come from all over the world and spend three months living on property getting an incredible educational experience that builds their resumes.”
The Sun reached out to the charity to comment on the latest figures.
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