Since Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness premiered on Netflix earlier this year, most public attention has been focused on the lives of the series’ prime subjects: Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. On Thursday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring gave everyone a reason to say, “oh yeah, I forgot about that Doc Antle guy.”
The AG’s office announced the indictment of Bhagavan “Doc” Antle on multiple charges of wildlife trafficking this morning. Antle runs the Myrtle Beach Safari Park in South Carolina, and prosecutors say that they’ve been conducting a “months-long” investigation into his relationship with Keith A. Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia. The investigation ultimately turned up satisfactory evidence for a Frederick County grand jury to indict the men for crimes relating to the illegal sale and transportation of lion cubs between their respective home states.
Antle is facing one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanour counts of animal cruelty. Two of his daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakum Watterson, were also charged with misdemeanours relating to animal cruelty and the Endangered Species Act.
Wilson was charged with two felonies and 17 misdemeanours. Prosecutors said that Wilson’s zoo was raided last year and 119 animals were taken into custody after it was determined that they were treated cruelly or given inadequate care.
The Netflix documentary brought the subject of roadside zoos to mainstream attention. The film mainly focuses on the feud between Exotic and Baskin, two eccentric zoo owners with differing views on how to properly care for animals. Exotic eventually went to prison for putting a hit out on Baskin. Baskin went on to join the latest season of Dancing With the Stars but increased suspicions that she murdered her husband continue to follow her.
Among Tiger King’s cast of characters, Doc Antle comes off as slightly more normal than the rest. His zoo appears more professional than others, gets a lot more guests, and he does some animal-wrangling for Hollywood. There is some suggestion at the end of the documentary that Antle euthanizes tiger cubs when they age out of the cute and cuddly phase. Most of the attention Antle gets is focused on his, ahem, unusual relationship with his employees, many of whom have joined his coterie of “wives.” But among animal rights activists, his Myrtle Beach facility has long been a target of suspicion and criminal allegations. And his list of animal cruelty violations goes back decades.