The “Tiger King” documentary that came out earlier this year was one of the most bizarre rollercoasters ever filmed. It featured beautiful wild cats, gun-wielding, mullet-wearing animal trainers, love, loss, vengeance, a crackhead hit man and a half-baked murder plot. It was one of those tales that was so goddamned weird it could only be a true story — stranger than fiction.
And holy hell did it make for good television.
Well, the latest development in that insane saga of big cat lovers, is the indictment of one of the documentary’s peripheral characters — a man named Bhagavan “Doc” Antle — who, in my humble opinion, should have had a documentary all his own. Antle is going to prison, now, along with his two daughters, leaving all his tigers and a handful of wives without their handler.
If you saw the documentary, you’ll recognize the name and you’ll certainly remember the character. He wears long flowing grey hair, has a commanding presence and piercing blue serial killer eyes. His zoo, Myrtle Beach Safari, is somewhat famous for the hot twenty something female interns Antle likes to hire, who live on the property while he grooms- I mean, trains them. And it’s no ordinary animal trainer education experience — Antle made sure his internships were very hands on and “spiritually oriented.”
According to at least one previous intern featured in the Tiger King documentary, it was almost like a tiger handler sex cult. Antle not only put the moves on his interns, but actually told them that by having sex with him, the “Bhagavan” (a term that refers to someone “divine” in Sanskrit) they could achieve spiritual enlightenment.
Anyway, Doc’s recent criminal indictment has nothing to do with his interns (or for that matter, his three wives, who he keeps on the zoo property in separate houses — not so unlike his tigers). The charges: Multiple counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy and multiple misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act. Both of Antle’s daughters have likewise been charged with animal cruelty and conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act.
In connection with Antle’s arrest and indictment, a man named Kieth Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester, Virginia was also indicted by the same grand jury on the same counts of trafficking, cruelty and conspiracy that Antle has been.
Throughout the documentary, there were hints and glimmers of Antle’s misdealing’s with tigers. Joe Exotic even made several veiled comments throughout the documentary, suggesting that Antle’s methods for managing his tigers were legally questionable. Particularly when it came to tiger euthanization — which, it was alleged, Antle illegally and consistently practiced on his animal “sanctuary” when his tiger cubs got too old.
What will become of Myrtle Beach Safari, now that the Bhagavan is gone? Will the interns stick around? Will his three wives take control of the place? Or will they take their opportunity to escape, along with his other caged animals?
That’s all uncertain, as of yet. All we can say for sure is that the ol’ Doc is probably really regretting having agreed to those interviews for Tiger King right about now. And Joe Exotic is probably laughing hysterically in his prison cell.