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Tiger King’s Doc Antle Is Charged with Wildlife Trafficking
It’s been a rough few weeks for the cast of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” First, Carole Baskins was eliminated from “Dancing with the Stars” after samba-ing her heart out in a velvety lion costume to “The Circle of Life.” Then, late on Friday evening, the ponytailed, big cat handler, Doc Antle, was indicted on charges of wildlife trafficking.
Per the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has been charged with 2 felonies related to wildlife trafficking and 13 additional misdeamoners related to animal cruelty. Two of Antle’s daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, are facing several misdemeanor charges for allegedly violating elements of the Endangered Species Act as well.
The charges come after a monthslong investigation into the relationship between Antle and Keith A. Wilson, owner of the former roadsize zoo Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Frederick County, Virginia. Preosecutors in the Attorney General’s office said the two men were trafficking lion cubs between South Carolina and Virginia. Wilson also faces mutiple felony and misdemeanor charges for wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty.
According to the Winchester Star, Wilson’s zoo shut down in August of 2019 when officers from the Virginia Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit seized over 100 animals, including water buffaloes, lions, tigers, camels, and bears. After the seizure, Wilson was indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty. A trial for those charges is scheduled for June 2021
In a statement to the New York Times, Doc Antle said, “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 be able to clear my good name.”
His statement echoes the emphatic comments he made about himself and his business in the documentary series that captivated lockdowned viewers back in March “It’s Shangri-La here,” Antle said, in reference to his 50 acre “wildlife preserve” in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It’s an unbelievable, unprecedented, magical place, where incredible things happen and everything is neutral, and happy, and going well.” But that claim stands in stark contrast to the charges put forth in the indictment, which describe Antle as acting in a “cruel, brutal, or inhumane manner, so as to produce torture, or unnecessary suffering.”
Abigail Covington is a journalist and cultural critic based in Brooklyn, New York but originally from North Carolina, whose work has appeared in Slate, The Nation, Oxford American, and Pitchfork
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