'Tiger King' star Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle has been indicted on wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty charges
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle pictured with a liger in 2012. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, who starred in Netflix's "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," has been charged with animal trafficking and cruelty.
Antle is the owner of South Carolina's Myrtle Beach Safari Wildlife Park, where visitors can pet and cuddle baby tigers.
The Virginia Attorney General's office on Friday announced the results of a month-long investigation that found that Antle and the owner of another wildlife park in Virginia had traded lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to sell protected species, including lions, across state lines.
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Bhagavan Antle, a wildlife park owner featured in the Netflix documentaries "Tiger King: Murder, Chaos and Madness," has been charged with animal trafficking and cruelty.
Antle, referred to as "Doc" Antle in "Tiger King", is the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, a South Carolina animal park where visitors can cuddle and pet baby tigers.
The Virginia Attorney General's office announced Friday that Antle was charged with two wildlife trafficking offenses, four conspiracy cases of violating the Endangered Species Act, and nine animal cruelty-related offenses.
Two of Antle's daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakum Watterson, are charged with animal cruelty and violating the Endangered Species Act.
The charges announced on Friday come after months of investigations by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's Animal Rights Division.
The investigation found that Antle traded lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina with Keith Wilson, who owns a wildlife park in Virginia. Wilson was charged with two offenses related to wildlife trafficking and 17 offenses related to animal cruelty and violations of the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act states that it is illegal to sell protected species, including lions, across state lines.
In a statement for the New York Times, Antle said, "I categorically deny any act or behavior that could ever be considered 'animal cruelty'. I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and protection of big cats and other species . I have a deep respect and feeling for the animals in my care and would never harm them or abuse them in any way. I look forward to responding to these charges and being able to erase my good name. "
The press release, released Friday by the Attorney General's Office of Virginia, Herring, also stated that Wilson - of Wilson's Wild Animal Park - and his nephew were charged with 46 cases of animal cruelty in November 2019. That August, Herings Animal Law Unit found 119 animals, including lions, tigers, camels, goats, bears and water buffalo, that Wilson had traded on the roadside for use in his zoo.
The animals being traded by Wilson have since been cared for by animal control agencies and animal rescue organizations, the Virginia Attorney General's office said.
The subject "Tiger King", the former zoo owner Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is serving 22 years in federal prison in connection with a 2017 rental murder program in which an animal rights activist is also killed as in 17 cases of animal abuse, including killing and selling tigers.
In addition, the Oklahoma Zoo, formerly owned by Exotic, the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, was closed to the public in August after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended its license to exhibit animals.
Representatives from Myrtle Beach Safari, Antle, Wilsons Wild Animal Park, and Netflix did not immediately respond to insider requests for comment.
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