In the latest “Tiger King” criminal news, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has been indicted on charges of wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty. Antle owns Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina and appeared on the “Tiger King” series as a wild animal trainer.
After investigating for several months, Attorney General Mark Herring announced last Friday that Antle had trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina. Herring scrutinized Antle’s relationship with Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, and determined that both zoo owners trafficked lion cubs between the two states. A grand jury in Frederick County indicted Wilson and his nephew on 46 counts of animal cruelty in November 2019.
In December 2019, Herring’s investigation led to a search of Antle’s property. Antle and two of his daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, faced misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and violating the Endangered Species Act.
Antle has denied all charges against himself and his daughters. “I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species. I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way,” he told CNN. “I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name.”
Netflix released “Tiger King”, a true crime documentary miniseries, in late March 2020. The series delves into the complicated relationships between big cat conservationists and collectors. The show focuses on Joe Exotic, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, who last year was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for murder-for-hire and wildlife violations. While the show became wildly popular amidst the pandemic, it’s done less for its stars, several of whom are now making their way through the legal system.
“The show ‘Tiger King’ made a number of false statements about my personal life that I just let slide off my back,” Antle told CNN. “But what the State of Virginia has done, to falsely attack my treatment of animals, to attempt to slander my reputation and my life’s work, solely to appease animal rights activists that have influence over the elected officials that have brought these charges is far different and it’s very personal to me.”
We’ll find out more when Antle has his day in court.
Images via Pixabay and Zoo Friend