Netflix Tiger King zookeeper Erik Cowie has been found dead aged 53

Tiger King
(Image credit: Alamy)

Netflix Tiger King zookeeper Erik Cowie has been found dead aged 53, with his death currently under investigation.

Netflix Tiger King viewers will be saddened to hear that head zookeeper Erik Cowie has been found dead, aged 53.

Fans of the popular controversial Netflix show will recognise Erik as the man who looked after the big cats at the Oklahoma zoo that was run by the show's Joe Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic.

His exact cause of death was under investigation last night after he was found dead at a flat in Brooklyn.

The New York Police Department said Cowie had been found by an acquaintance on Friday evening. “He was unconscious and unresponsive,” the spokesman said.

He was pronounced dead by paramedics.

Tributes have been paid to the zookeeper turned reality star, Tiger King Park, where he worked, uploaded a photo of Erik with the animals, and captioned it, 'All the cats loved & trusted him. #rip #tigerking #erikcowie.'

A photo posted by on

Tiger King producers interviewed Erik at length about what it was like working with Joe Exotic and he later testified against Joe Exotic who was stood accused of plotting to kill Carole Baskin, the owner of an animal sanctuary in Florida. Carole campaigned for the closure of his zoo and accused him of abusing its tigers.

Exotic was sentenced last year to 22 years in prison for killing five tigers and for a murder-for-hire plot, in which he was said to have tried to pay a hitman $3,000.

According to TMZ, Erik, 53, faced a drink driving charge in Oklahoma in May following a car accident but failed to attend his sentencing hearing. It also claimed he acknowledged he was struggling with alcoholism before he started working at the zoo.

Another tribute from the zoo, read, 'It comes with great sadness to say that a dear friend and hard working employee has passed away. Erik Cowie dedicated every waking moment caring for the animals at GWEAP & Tiger King Park. After the animals were ripped away by the Department of Justice, he sadly couldn’t take it anymore. He absolutely loved all the animals and would show up early to check on each and everyone. He had his Demons but the animals helped bring joy and happiness in his life. #rip #tigerking #erikcowie'

A photo posted by on

And after news Netflix Tiger King Eric Cowie had been found dead broke, a statement appeared on Exotic’s social media accounts. it read, 'I did everything I could to help him and save him from himself and he turned on me for fame', adding that a donation would be made in his name to a drug and alcohol treatment centre.

Netflix Tiger King Joe Exotic

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fans have also paid tribute to the star. One wrote, 'Sorry about your loss, I never met him but I hear he loved his animals. I value animals over humans all day long, I send my condolences to his friends and family.'

Another fan put, 'I'm so sad,' and a third fan added, 'Rest easy brother'.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)