Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of a “roadside zoo” in South Carolina who was featured in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, has been indicted on wildlife trafficking, animal cruelty and other charges.
The indictment comes after a months-long investigation conducted by the Animal Law Unit of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. Antle was charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.
Two of Antle’s daughters were also charged: Tawny Antle faces one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and another for violating the Endangered Species Act; and Tilakum Watterson was charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two for violating the Endangered Species Act.
A representative for Antle’s zoo, Myrtle Beach Safari, did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
The charges brought against Antle were tied to an investigation into Keith Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester, Virginia. Wilson was indicted on numerous counts of animal cruelty last year, and was hit with additional wildlife trafficking charges in the indictment today. In a statement from AG Herring’s office, the investigation into the relationship between Antle and Wilson allegedly “found that both men trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.”
The investigation included the execution of a search warrant at Antle’s South Carolina property last December, though AG Herring’s statement says nothing about whether any animals from Myrtle Beach Safari were seized. Last August, authorities secured custody of 119 animals from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, and they are now being cared for by animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partner organizations.
Antle played a minor but memorable role in Tiger King — a self-stylized guru of sorts who took on multiple wives and gave the young women who work for him exotic names. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tiger King co-director Eric Goode cited Antle as an example of how difficult it was to document the actual conditions for the animals at these roadside zoos: “Many of these places never really showed us fully their entire operations,” Goode said. “We would go to Doc Antle’s, but we were never allowed in the area where the animals are caged and kept. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.”
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