Breaking the Jackson ‘Tiger-Lady’ Story – Back Then…The Unofficial History of NJ 101.5
Back then, the tale of the Jackson Township tigers. I am working alone in our newsroom one evening in January of 1999. The phone goes off. When I answered it, this guy says, “Hey! Joe! There’s a tiger loose in Jackson Township!” To say that I took this with a grain of salt would be an understatement. After assuring him that I would, “check it out,” I rang off, wondering if there was a full moon over Jersey that night back then.
But the guy called me back, several times to ask if I had found out anything about the tiger on the loose. Then others started calling from Jackson. All this in the space of about 10 or 15 minutes.
This started to sound like more than a hoax. So I got in touch with Jackson Township police. I remember that they were extremely forthcoming that night. I spent a considerable amount of time back then on that January night on the phone with a Jackson Township PD Lieutenant whose name I have long forgotten. I apologize to him for forgetting his name, because he not only confirmed that there was a tiger roaming Jackson, but he also kept me up to speed, early in the story, on what they were doing about it.
Anyway, I called News Director Eric Scott. Eric dispatched Alan David Stein, who was working as one of our field reporters back then, to go to Jackson that night and get the lowdown on the tiger for us.
When we realized there really was a tiger there, many of us initially thought it had escaped from Six Flags’ animal safari, which is also in Jackson. But as the story unfolded, we all learned about Joan Marasek and the Tiger preserve she maintained in Jackson, the, “Tigers Only Preservation Society.” This Bengal, over 500 pounds in size, turned out to be one of Joan’s tigers.
Anyway, Alan David Stein and I spent the rest of the evening on the air that night back then, doing frequent live updates about the tiger in the woods of Jackson. The decision was eventually made to shoot the Tiger after an unsuccessful attempt was made to tranquilize it. But the story did not end there, of course.
Joan Marasek and her husband Jan, spent years battling with the State of New Jersey about her tiger preserve, which was eventually shut down when the State revoked the permit. But during the long, drawn out battle, Joan came on New Jersey 101.5 with Jim Gearhart and with our news frequently to explain about her preserve, her battle with the State and why her tigers should stay in Jackson.
When she lost the fight to keep TOPS open, the tigers were shipped to a wild animal orphanage in San Antonio, Texas.
A tiger, a BIG tiger, on the loose in Jackson Township. Who would have ever thought!
But it really did happen, back then, on a January night in 1999.