Wynnewood, OK -- (SBWIRE) -- 04/10/2015 -- In the early morning hours of March 26, a tragic fire struck the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Okla.
Seven alligators and one crocodile died, including an alligator that once belonged to Michael Jackson. Two reptile enclosures were completely destroyed and an adjacent television studio was demolished. In addition, equipment from the studio was stolen.
The equipment was used by Joe Schreibvogel, the founder of the zoo, to record his independently-produced television show, Joe Exotic TV. He feels strongly that the fire was most likely set by rogue animal rights activists who have been targeting the zoo recently.
"This was personal," Schreibvogel told News OK. "They targeted the studio to shut me up. They wanted to get me off the air."
Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes told KJRH-TV that the fire appeared to be arson and was most likely an attempt to cover up a burglary or theft. An arson investigator has not officially declared the incident a case of arson, but has ruled out other likely causes, such as electrical issues and lightning.
No one has been arrested or charged in the case. Schreibvogel, who reportedly filed for bankruptcy in 2013, said repairs will cost $250,000. The property was not insured.
To raise money for the repairs, he has launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign. The goal is $150,000, of which $125,000 will go for repairs. The remaining $25,000 is being offered as a reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
The GoFundMe page can be viewed at http://www.gofundme.com/qb9edw
Thus far, nearly $4,000 has been contributed.
Donations of any amount are welcome. For a $30 pledge, supporters will receive a handmade Broken Heart Alligator necklace.
The building was named the Steve Irwin Compound, in honor of the late crocodile hunter. "Aside from the strife we feel for this loss, we want to heal our monument built to a great man," Schreibvogel says. "We need to heal our park after this attack.
"This was not random. Someone targeted our zoo. We need your help to right this wrong. For the baby gators who died in the fire. For the memorabilia turned to ashes. To make the zoo whole again. We really appreciate any amount people care to donate."
For additional information, visit http://www.gofundme.com/qb9edw; the Joe Exotic TV website, http://www.joeexotictv.org/arson-fire-at-gw-zoo.html; or the GW Zoo Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/GWAnimalPark?fref=ts
Schreibvogel can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Name: Joe Exotic
Company Name: Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo
Email Address: email@example.com
Website URL: http://www.joeexotictv.org/arson-fire-at-gw-zoo.html
Zip Code: 73098
Phone Number: 405-665-1003