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‘Doc’ Antle from ‘Tiger King’ fame has been indicted on wildlife trafficking charges

By Jennifer Henderson and Amir Vera, CNN

(CNN) — Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, one of the many characters in Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has been indicted on wildlife trafficking charges after an investigation by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Antle owns a private zoo in South Carolina called Myrtle Beach Safari, which was featured in “Tiger King.” He’s previously said he was “very disappointed” in his portrayal in the documentary, CNN affiliate WPDE-TV reported.

“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,” Antle told CNN.

“I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name,” he said.

Herring’s Animal Law Unit investigated Antle’s relationship with Keith Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, and found that both men trafficked lion cubs between South Carolina and Virginia, according to a news release from Herring’s office.

A search warrant was executed in August 2019 at Wilson’s park, where authorities seized 119 animals including tigers, bears, lions, goats, camels, water buffalo and more, the release said.

“During a 12 hour seizure hearing held on August 29, 2019 in Frederick County General District Court, animal welfare experts testified as to the inadequate conditions and cruelty at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park and photo and video evidence was entered showing inadequate conditions of animals and facilities,” the release said.

Animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partner organizations have taken custody of the animals seized at Wilson’s park, the release said.

In November 2019, Wilson and his nephew were indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty by a grand jury in Frederick County, about 90 miles west of Washington, DC. The trial date has been set for Wilson and nephew for June 21-25, 2021.

Wilson is being represented by the Cavalry Group, a member-based company advocating for private property rights of animal owners and animal related businesses, according to the organization’s president, Mindy Patterson. Wilson has been a member of the Cavalry Group for five years, Patterson said.

“The Cavalry Group maintains that Keith Wilson is innocent of all charges and that he will be cleared when he has his day in court,” Patterson told CNN in an email.

Herring’s investigation found its way to South Carolina in December 2019 when a search warrant was executed at Antle’s property by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency, according to the news release. Along with Antle, two of his daughters – Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson – were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and violating the Endangered Species Act, the release said.

Neither of Antle’s daughters have an attorney, Antle said. Speaking for them, he said neither of them would hurt or abuse animals in any way and they look forward to clearing their names.

“The show Tiger King made a number of false statements about my personal life that I just let slide off my back,” Antle told CNN.

“But what the State of Virginia has done, to falsely attack my treatment of animals, to attempt to slander my reputation and my life’s work, solely to appease animal rights activists that have influence over the elected officials that have brought these charges is far different and it’s very personal to me,” he said.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Lisa Respers France and AJ Willingham contributed to this report.

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