By now, you’ve probably finished watching the bizarrely addicting true crime Netflix docuseries, Tiger King, which exposes the exploitive world of wild cat collecting and breeding. Specifically, the series focuses on the titular Joe Exotic, a notorious wild animal zookeeper and his widely publicized rivalry and legal battle with activist Carole Baskin. Exotic isn’t the only guy who has a thing for huge cats. Several big-time wild animal collectors with private zoos are also introduced in Tiger King, including an eccentric man named Bhagavan “Doc” Antle who is shown running a tiger park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (he’s a doctor of “mystic science,” apparently). The documentary severely questions his business practices, and if you’re wondering whether he’s still there, here’s your answer: Absolutely he is.
What Does Doc Antle Think Of Tiger King?
Antle has responded to Netflix’s portrayal of his practices. On March 24, Antle posted a photo of himself and his staff to his Instagram and Twitter accounts, stating, “We are very disappointed that our facility was mentioned in the new Netflix series. We can only assume it is because Doc Antle has been such a high profile wildlife personality for so many decades that his association would create more buzz. It is important to understand that this series is not a documentary; it’s sensationalized entertainment with paid participants.”
Antle added that his park has never had any violations, and that his animals are given only the best treatment. “Myrtle Beach Safari adheres to all USDA guidelines, and our animals are treated with the utmost care. We have never had a USDA violation and work collaboratively with various state and federal wildlife agencies to ensure our animals receive the very best life each and every day,” he wrote.
Is Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari Park Still Open?
Antle still runs the Myrtle Beach Safari (also known as T.I.G.E.R.S, which stands for The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) and Rare Species Fund.
If the documentary hasn’t turned you off the whole practice of tigers in captivity (it really should), you can technically visit Antle’s safari. It’s still open despite the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the website, as of March 26, the park’s Coronavirus policy is this:
“Myrtle Beach Safari is not planning to cancel any tours. We are also following the CDC guidelines and taking all necessary health precautions. Should you need to reschedule your tour for a later date, please contact us via email or phone.”
Update: A rep for the park confirmed the park’s policy to Refinery29:
“…we plan for our tours to continue unless if we’re advised otherwise (our website landing page is updated daily). We follow the CDC guidelines for enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, and with the tours offered on our 50-acre wildlife preserve, there’s plenty of room for social distancing (plus we’re able to pace the tours to further separate folks).”
Original article continues:
Additionally, Antle and the park have not faced criminal charges for any of the shocking allegations from the Netflix series, including the one from his former apprentice, Barbara Fischer, who claimed that Antle euthanized that were no longer deemed profitable by shooting them. Antle denies this.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been trying to take down Antle for a long time, claiming that his operations are a danger to wildlife. PETA’s website bears the following claims:
“Antle has a long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, including by endangering the public and by failing to provide animals with needed veterinary care, sufficient cage space, and clean water.”
The organization also heavily criticizes Antle’s allegedly exploitive breeding and tiger cub-petting business which they claim “churns out baby tigers in order to have a constant inventory of infants” for attendees to take photos with.
The PR team for Antle’s safari park did not immediately respond to Refinery29’s request for comment regarding PETA and Tiger King’s allegations regarding treatment of tigers.
In December 2019, it was reported by ABC 15 News that Myrtle Beach Safari was raided by authorities — but Antle has maintained that police only had a warrant to his property because his park kept lions that were related to other lions at a different animal park that were allegedly abused. “The lions are part of an ongoing investigation the state is working on and they wanted us to try and help them look at the trail of where the lions had come from and any ideas or evidence we had about what the lions’ lives had been before they moved here to Myrtle Beach Safari,” Antle stated.
The Myrtle Beach Safari is no celeb hot spot, but most recently it did welcome professional wrestler, The Undertaker (Mark William Calaway). He posed with a tiger in a pool, and Antle posted the video to Instagram five days ago.
And What About Doc Antle’s “Girlfriends”?
Antle’s apprenticeship program is still going. In Tiger King, Fischer describes applying to Antle’s safari as a teenager and living on the property for several years, along with other young women who dedicated their lives to tigers — and, allegedly, to Antle. She claims Antle only employed young, vulnerable women. In the documentary, Antle states that many of his “partners” and “girlfriends,” who work at the park, started as teenage apprentices. Fischer claims the tiger owner would tell his apprentices what to eat and wear, and he allegedly ordered breast enhancement surgery for Fischer. Fischer claims the only way to advance at the safari was to have sex with Antle. Antle does not explicitly deny those claims in the documentary, but did speak out after its release.
Regarding Fischer’s accusations in The Tiger King, Antle told Oxygen that her words are “the ramblings of a crazy child who has a lot of, in my opinion, issues and somehow those have boiled up.” He denies having multiple wives, saying, “When I say ‘my girl,’ it’s a cowboy saying, it’s not that these are my wives. Sure I’ve had girlfriends and there’s girls I have had relationships with that have come and gone over the decades.” Antle said none of his relationships are legal marriages. “I am absolutely not married nor have I been since my wife died over 20 years ago now. I’m not married and I certainly don’t have wives. I certainly am a single guy and I live in a house by myself,” he said. A representative for the park did not immediately return Refinery29’s request for additional comment.
To this day, at least several of the same women who are introduced in the docuseries remain employed at the safari. On March 21, Antle posted a video of one of his supposed partners, Rajani, and a big cat. Earlier that day, he uploaded a TikTok video promo that features Moksha.
On March 12, Antle posted a promo for a YouTube video called “Chimp Makes Cornbread Chili” that features China, who appeared in the series as well.
Who Are Doc Antle’s Kids, Kody & Tawny Antle?
Antle’s son Kody is briefly mentioned in the series and might be even more famous than his dad — but in a slightly less polarizing way. Kody is considered something of an IRL Tarzan and has a huge following on TikTok and Instagram. Kody, who is 30 years old, helps run the Myrtle Beach Safari with his dad and also casually moonlights as an influencer.
Antle also has a daughter named Tawny Antle, who calls herself “Queen of the Jungle” on Instagram. She also works at the safari with her dad and brother.
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