The owner of Myrtle Beach Safari faces two felony charges and more than a dozen misdemeanors after authorities say he and another zoo operator trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, the Myrtle Beach Safari owner whose facility was featured on the popular Netflix documentary "Tiger King" in March, is charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, according to a Friday news release from the Virginia Attorney General's Office.
Antle could not immediately be reached for comment.
The charges follow a months-long investigation by the Animal Law Unit of the Virginia Attorney General's Office. The probe focused on the relationship between Antle and Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia. Wilson is charged with with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic and 17 additional misdemeanors. The investigation included a search warrant that was executed at Antle's Horry County property in December. Myrtle Beach Safari is located off Folly Road near S.C. 707 in Socastee.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division officers served search warrants at Myrtle Beach Safa…
Two of Antle’s daughters have also been charged with misdemeanors in connection with the case, according to the news release. Tawny Antle has been charged with one count of cruelty to animals and one count of violating the Endangered Species Act, and Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two counts of cruelty to animals and two counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
The criminal indictments against Antle, Wilson and Antle's daughters were handed down Thursday by a grand jury in Frederick County, Virginia.
The indictments follow a November announcement from the Virginia AG that Wilson and his nephew Christian Dall’Acqua had both been indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty by a Frederick County Grand Jury. That case is scheduled to go to trial in June. In August 2019, the Animal Law Unit seized 119 animals from Wilson's roadside zoo.
"The seized animals included lions, tigers, bears, camels, goats, water buffalo, and more," the Virgina AG's release said. "The animals are currently in the care of animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partner organizations."
Animal welfare experts have testified the conditions at the Virginia zoo were inadequate and cruel, according to the release.