Two years in the past, the Netflix documentary, “Tiger King,” captivated the complete nation. Joe Unique’s outlandish antics, the thriller of Carole Baskin’s lacking husband, and the tiger buying and selling enterprise fascinated audiences. Nevertheless, few folks know that New Jersey had its personal tiger queen. For a number of years, Joan Myron-Marasek owned a tiger sanctuary in Ocean County. Identified domestically because the Tiger Woman, her empire got here crumbling down when a tiger broke unfastened and roamed round Jackson, New Jersey. Buckle up “Tiger King” lovers, Byron-Marasek’s story is one that can not be forgotten.
Who’s Joan Byron-Marasek?
In 1999, Joan Byron-Marasek made headlines far and vast when a tiger allegedly escaped her protect. Nevertheless, reporters may by no means get solutions from the mysterious tiger proprietor as she actively dodged all questions. She apparently has no Social Safety quantity, making her age tough to ascertain. The New Jersey Tiger Woman swore that she was born in 1955 and commenced taking courses at New York College in 1968. This is able to make her a 13-year-old freshman in faculty. When probed additional, she said that she was simply not good at remembering dates. Newspaper reviews have claimed Byron-Marasek was an actress, however there isn’t any concrete proof of those findings.
Nothing about Byron-Marasek’s life is definitive, besides the truth that she was as soon as an animal handler. She has labored for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Identified for having an obsession with endangered species, Byron-Marasek’s lifelong dream was to create a wildlife protect. Finally, she would achieve this. Nevertheless, she took her obsession to a stage most animal lovers would by no means attain.
The Starting of the Tigers Solely Preservation Society
Up till 1971, New Jersey had no restrictions concerning proudly owning wild animals. For a very long time, exotic-animal house owners didn’t fear about having permits or registering their wildlife with the state. However when reviews of aggressive animal encounters started to come up, the state set about retaining observe of the unique animals throughout the territory. It was throughout this time that many wildlife-themed sights opened throughout the state. For instance, each Jungle Habitat and Six Flags Nice Journey made their debuts in NJ within the ‘70s.
In 1976, Byron-Marasek moved to Jackson, NJ together with her household—husband Jan Marasek and her 5 tigers. The city was barely populated, and her property was largely featureless. Situated close to Holmeson’s Nook, the land appeared to Byron-Marasek like a great place to boost tigers. So, Byron-Marasek packed her baggage and took her predatory cats to Jackson. Then, the Tiger Woman obtained the required permits for her tigers on the state and federal ranges. In consequence, the Tigers Solely Preservation Society was born.
The Tiger Woman’s Operations
The society’s mission was to preserve all tiger species, return captive tigers to the wild and create a decision to the human and tiger battle. Finally, extra tigers have been bought and extra cubs have been born. The inhabitants of tigers steadily elevated and the Six Flags’ safari attraction aided within the progress of the tiger inhabitants in Jackson, NJ. At one level, the township had a better focus of tigers per sq. mile than anyplace else on the earth.
At Tigers Solely Preservation Society, Byron-Marasek’s permits required her to provide instructional excursions of her property and packages specializing in her animals. Nevertheless, the state had no information of the tigers performing or anybody attending an academic program. In reality, Byron-Marasek by no means marketed to the general public, nor did she search for fame. However, in 1999, fame—and infamy—would discover her.
A Tiger on the Free
In 1999, Jackson Township residents made a number of calls to the police division. They reported that there was a tiger roaming the streets. Initially, police mistook the involved cellphone requires pranks. In any case, tigers are naturally discovered within the Siberian taiga or rainforests, not in southern New Jersey. Nevertheless, when it later turned obvious that the calls have been critical, the police division deployed a slew of officers to trace down the tiger. The 40,000 residents of Jackson have been on full lockdown as warmth sensors, evening imaginative and prescient tools and a helicopter aided within the search to search out the runaway feline.
After hours of looking out, an airplane using infrared know-how managed to trace down the 450-pound, nine-foot-long Bengal tiger. The feline was tranquilized, though it was not affected by the anesthetics. Police in the end shot and killed the tiger as a result of they have been afraid of what the agitated animal would possibly do. As soon as the beast was now not a priority, the city was left with a salient query: whose tiger was it?
All Leads Level to The Tiger Woman
Nothing on the tiger indicated the place it got here from, nor did anybody report a lacking tiger. Nevertheless, two prime suspects got here to thoughts. The tiger seemingly escaped from both Six Flags Nice Journey or Tigers Solely Preservation Society. Neither get together took accountability for the unfastened animal, and each pointed fingers at one another. Because the investigation continued, Six Flags was capable of account for all the animals of their safari attraction. However, the New Jersey Tiger Woman—as all the time—was elusive. In preliminary searches, authorities discovered a number of holes within the fence that contained her large cats. Moreover, she may solely account for 18 animals, though her state allow said that she had 23. Consequently, officers questioned whether or not there have been extra lacking tigers and insisted on investigating the property extra carefully.
To keep away from being searched, Byron-Marasek did something she may to cease the police. For instance, she refused to name off her dozen guard canines. In consequence, a gaggle of police and state wildlife officers may solely examine the property by peering via crumbling fences and round sheds within the Maraseks’ yard.
The authorities weren’t the one ones fascinated with studying extra about Byron-Marasek. Main information shops have been fascinated by the outlandish story of a Bengal tiger roaming the Pine Barrens. As media scrutiny centered on the Tiger Woman, she maintained that the tiger didn’t belong to the Tigers Solely Preservation Society. In reality, the tiger was by no means confirmed to belong to her. Nonetheless, the runaway feline would result in quite a lot of points for Byron-Marasek.
The Tiger Woman’s Authorized Woes
The information protection of the incident finally died down, though the repercussions of the occasion raged on. The Tiger Woman remained reclusive and took on an anti-authoritative stance, resulting in repeated issues. The authorized ramifications peaked when it was found that Byron-Marasek was breeding felines though she was mandated by regulation to separate her female and male tigers.
In consequence, the federal government started authorized proceedings to strip her of her unique animal allow. Throughout this time, Byron-Marasek would delay the method by searching for a license from the state of New York, altering attorneys a number of occasions and difficult the relocation of her Bengal tigers by claiming the brand new sanctuary was unfit for the animals.
Then, the Tigers Solely Preservation Society made headlines once more in October 2002. This time, the scenario was extra dire than the final. The Tiger Woman’s husband, Jan, was attacked by a tiger whereas feeding them chickens. These incidents culminated within the authorities profitable the battle over the tigers a yr later.
The Finish of Tigers Solely Preservation Society
After practically 5 years of authorized battles, the New Jersey Tiger Woman misplaced the dispute. The state shut the preservation down in 2003, and the ferocious tigers have been moved to totally different sanctuaries deemed higher geared up to look after the animals.
The transfer reportedly price $300,000. New Jersey would supply $120,000 and the Worldwide Animal Welfare Fund contributed one other $120,000. It was not instantly clear who would pay the remaining $60,000. Though, the New Jersey Tiger Woman was finally ordered to repay the state for the price of the animal relocation.
Byron-Marasek continued to combat the state and submitted authorized briefs stating that NJ wrongfully shut down her protect. She asserted that the property was well-kept and that the state tried to halt her operations in a bid to get her to promote the property. In response to Byron-Marasek, the power lies in a commercially rising space. Practically twenty years later, her solutions would seem true.
The New Jersey Tiger Woman At present
For the reason that unfastened tiger incident and the removing of her Bengals, the Tiger Woman has remained largely out of the limelight. After an unpaid tax lien, the Tigers Solely Preservation Society was deserted in 2017. Then, the Westmarq Property Group purchased the positioning at a foreclosures sale. At present, 463 Monmouth Highway is devoid of tigers. Within the preservation’s place is quite a bit set to accommodate a 500-square-foot “Jackson Tech Park.”