MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WAVY/WBTW) – The owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, who was featured in the Netflix show “Tiger King,” is facing multiple wildlife trafficking charges stemming from an investigation by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Mark Herring’s Animal Law Unit says Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, of Myrtle Beach, and Keith A. Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari park.
Antle has been 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.
Both men were indicted on Wednesday by a grand jury in Frederick County, along with two of Doc Antle’s daughters. Tawny Antle has been charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act, and Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
Herring’s office says a months-long investigation beginning in July 2017 led to the charges, including a search of Antle’s Myrtle Beach property in December 2019.
Antle told News13 in December he took in three lion cubs from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, which couldn’t care for the animals. That park shut down after about 120 animals were seized from it in August of 2019.
The online records also list Antle as a “fugitive” in Virginia.
PETA accused Myrtle Beach Safari of mistreating animals after NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. posted an Instagram video in January. In the video, he was playing catch with a chimpanzee and petting a young cheetah at the park.
Antle was one of three primary figures in the Netflix series. Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage is in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot against the show’s third main character, Carole Baskin, who recently appeared on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” She continues to face heat over the 1997 disappearance of her former husband Don Lewis, but maintains her innocence in the case.