Khary Payton

Khary Payton Walking Dead

King Ezekiel meets King Joseph

Big Cat Rescue has long fought against the use of wild cats in entertainment. These animals are commonly trained by using fear and intimidation to make them perform unnatural behaviors in stressful environments. With the evolving animation software available to Hollywood, it only makes sense that showrunners and filmmakers would move away from using unpredictable apex predators and instead utilize vivid graphics that bring these animals to life without exploitation.

When the hit TV series The Walking Dead announced that they would use state of the art CGI and a live human actor to create King Ezekiel’s pet tigress Shiva, fans and big cat advocates were happily relieved. But there’s no getting around the fact that even though this fictional show is set in a post-apocalyptic zombie world, Shiva is made out to be a pet. So when Big Cat rescuers heard that Khary Payton would be in town for the Tampa Bay Comic Con, we pounced on the opportunity to introduce our tigers to the Walking Dead’s King Ezekiel. Who better to learn of the abuses surrounding the use of big cats as pets? Better yet, it was National Tiger Day!


Khary and his team made for outstanding guests! They were quickly in-step with BCR’s mission of ending big cat abuse and wanted to play their part. The cats also seemed to know that King Ezekiel was in town. Priya, Kali, Andy, Arthur, and Gabrielle all gave Shiva’s onscreen partner vocal greetings and were more than happy to stalk him along the tour path. Jade and Armani were in full leopard play mode, Gilligan and his rescued mates made their appearances, and even Mickey took a sneak peek at the actor. Nikita allowed the group to join her for breakfast as she crunched down on bones and Joseph was sure to let them know who the real king was with his renowned roar. We shared the stories of our cats, talked about cub petting and the worst abuses, and had a genuine discussion on what impact, if any, his character had on private ownership.

Once back at his Comic Con booth, Khary showed off his new BCR t-shirt while taking pictures with fans. And on the table next to his autograph photos the actor displayed our “Real Beast” sign and had Big Cat Rescue brochures and Call of the Wild cards for the taking – encouraging his fans to help end big cat abuse by supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act.


A great big Big Cat thank you to Khary Payton, Carlos Navarro, and friends for taking the time to visit with the cats and learn why it’s so important that we “do not touch the tiger”!

Jennifer Leon
Director of Outreach

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