Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle has been charged with 15 counts of misconduct relating to wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty.
Antle – who owns South Carolina zoo Myrtle Beach Safari – rose to recent fame after appearing on the Netflix series, Tiger King. His private zoo was featured on the show, along with their signature attraction of allowing visitors to pat and hold tiger cubs.
The investigation was carried out by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring who on Thursday (October 8) charged Antle with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to traffic wildlife, four misdemeanour counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and nine misdemeanour counts of animal cruelty.
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Antle denied all claims, telling CNN, “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.”
Two of his daughters – Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson – were also charged with misdemeanour counts of cruelty to animals and violating the Endangered Species Act.
Included in the charges was a long-term partnership between Antle and Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia.
Herring’s Animal Law Unit deduced the pair had been trafficking and trading lion cubs between South Carolina and Virginia. In the US, it’s illegal to sell protected animals across state lines under the Endangered Species Act.
As CNN cited, a search warrant against Wilson was activated in August last year (2019), where authorities seized over 100 animals, including tigers, lions, bears, water buffalo and many more.
The raid hearing took place over a 12-hour period on August 29, where animal welfare experts testified to the “inadequate conditions and cruelty” at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park.
They provided both photo and video evidence showing “inadequate conditions of animals and facilities.”
Following this, Wilson was served with 46 counts of animal cruelty.
He has since been further indicted on charges identical to Antle, with an additional four counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act.