Native to Australia, healthy male great red kangaroos can grow up to 7 feet tall, weigh more than 200 pounds and bound 25 feet in a single leap. But veterinarians said Irwin would probably not grow larger than 50 pounds because of his injury and because he has been neutered. Irwin has gained about 20 pounds during the past two years and is now able to hop better.
The city council eventually voted to create an exotic animal ordinance exemption that allowed Carr to keep Irwin within city limits under certain conditions. The permit required exotic animal owners to, among other things, have a $50,000 liability insurance policy for any injuries inflicted by the animal, certification that the animal has adequate housing and meet all federal and state guidelines for licensing. An anonymous donor paid for Carr’s insurance policy.
But growing frustration with city officials caused Carr to move herself and Irwin first to Claremore, then to her parents’ home in McAlester and, in March, to the zoo.
“We called her up and offered her a place to stay and Irwin a zoo to hang out with a bunch of other animals, and they’ve been here ever since,” said Schreibvogel, who founded the zoo, which is named after his brother who died in a car accident in 1997.
The park has close to 800 animals — the majority came from sanctuaries and other zoos — and 18 workers. It’s a place, Schreibvogel said, where animals and humans come for a second chance.
“Most of the volunteers here are ex-druggies, ex-alcoholics, on prison’s door step,” he said. “Why do people turn to drugs and alcohol? Usually because they don’t fit in somewhere. Well, here these animals don’t judge you.”
Schreibvogel, who looks a bit out of place in the Oklahoma countryside with his bleach-blonde hair, earrings and eyebrow ring and arm full of tattoos, is trying to become a country singer. Known as Joe Exotic, he recently released three songs with music videos and has a reality TV show pilot filming soon, which will feature Irwin and other animals at the park.
Schreibvogel and Carr bonded over the backlash they’ve both received from animal-rights groups. They say it has helped them get to where they are.
“Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a right to an opinion,” Schreibvogel said. “If they would have euthanized him three years ago, he wouldn’t be walking around, hopping now, so not everyone knows what they are talking about.”