‘Tiger King’s Doc Antle Indicted on Wildlife Trafficking Charges
Remember Tiger King? It was Netflix’s smash true-crime reality series at the start of coronavirus quarantine, which I think means it premiered 45 years ago. (At least it feels like that was 45 years ago. Time no longer has any meaning.)
Although the series concluded last spring, the saga of the show’s eccentric wildlife lovers, zoo owners, and alleged criminals continues. Just last weekend, the animal law unit of the Attorney General of Virginia announced that one of the key supporting players in the show — Bhagavan “Doc” Antle — had been indicted for wildlife trafficking.
According to the Attorney General’s website, 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.” Another zoo owner, Keith A. Wilson, was also charged; the indictment follows an investigation “into the relationship between Antle and Wilson” that “found that both men trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.”
Antle gave this statement on his indictment to 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. I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name.
On Tiger King, Antle was mostly depicted as the far more savvy operator in the world of morally queasy wildlife zoos, in contrast to the bumbling and reckless Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed “Tiger King” at the center of the story. His portions of the show focused on his relationship with Exotic, and the almost cult-like devotion of his largely female staff.
Exotic is already in prison serving a 22-year sentence for various crimes. The woman he allegedly plotted to murder, animal rights activist Carole Baskin, just appeared as a contestant on the latest season of Dancing With the Stars. Even if the documentary ended 45 years ago, Tiger King will always be with us.
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