The attorney general’s office reported on Tuesday that a wild animal trainer who appeared in the well-liked Netflix series “Tiger King” was found guilty of wildlife trafficking in Virginia.
Attorney General Jason Miyares claimed in a news statement that Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was charged with purchasing endangered lion cubs illegally in Frederick County, Virginia, for display and profit in his South Carolina zoo. On Friday, a jury found Antle guilty of two felony counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in wildlife.
Myrtle Beach Safari owner Antle made an appearance in the Netflix documentary miniseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,” which was centred on tiger breeders.
According to The Winchester Star, Judge Alexander Iden dismissed four further animal cruelty charges against Antle and all charges against his two adult daughters after the jury found him not guilty on all five counts of animal cruelty.
Prosecutor Michelle Welch referred to the arrangement as a “cub pipeline” from Virginia to South Carolina and claimed that Antle was motivated by the profitable petting zoo at Myrtle Beach Safari to keep a regular supply of young lion cubs that he bought from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park close to Winchester.
It was still lawful to buy and sell lions when Antle and Keith Wilson, the park’s previous owners, started their operation in 2015, according to Welch. However, lions could only be exchanged between zoos and wildlife preserves that were a part of a recognised breeding programme and had licences when lions were listed as an endangered species in December 2015. Three unauthorised cub trades were place in 2017, 2018, and 2019, according to Welch.
2020 saw the indictment of Antle for a number of crimes, including conspiracy and felony charges of wildlife trafficking. A judge determined that Wilson “cruelly treated, neglected, or deprived” the animals of proper care, leading to the seizure of 119 animals from Wilson’s roadside zoo in August 2019. These creatures included lions, tigers, bears, camels, goats, and water buffalo.
Wilson said that Antle gave him money up front while pretending to be making a contribution. With the exception of the 2017 sale in which Antle exchanged three lynx kittens for three lion cubs, he claimed Antle paid $2,500 to $3,000 each cub.
A hearing in Wilson’s case is set for this Friday. Wilson is accused of 10 felonies of selling an endangered species and nine misdemeanours of animal cruelty.
Erin Harrigan, the defence counsel, said that Antle’s prosecution was politically motivated in response to a growing public uproar against the use of wild animals for entertainment.
Since the outset of the investigation, this has been an agenda looking for a crime, according to Harrigan.
The cubs, according to Harrigan, were a gift, and Antle sent Wilson donations for a larger tiger enclosure.
These weren’t sales, according to Harrigan.
Iden let Antle, who could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, to remain out on bond until his hearing on September 14.