Wildlife park owner featured in ‘Tiger King’ faces wildlife trafficking charge in Virginia

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Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, who was among the wildlife zoo figures featured on the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” faces several charges in Virginia stemming from an investigation into the trafficking of lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.

Antle has been 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.

Keith A. Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Two of Doc Antle’s daughters have also been charged: Tawny Antle has been charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act, and Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.

The indictments come after a months-long investigation by Attorney General Mark Herring’s Animal Law Unit into the relationship between Antle and Wilson found that both men trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina.

This investigation included the execution of a search warrant at Antle’s South Carolina property in December 2019 by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency.

Last November, Herring announced that Keith Wilson and his nephew Christian Dall’Acqua had both been indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty by a grand jury in Frederick County. A trial date has been set in the Wilson and Dall’Acqua case for June 2021.

In August of last year, the AG’s Animal Law Unit secured custody of 119 animals that were seized from Wilson’s “roadside zoo” after a judge issued an order finding that Wilson “cruelly treated, neglected, or deprived the animal[s] of adequate care.”

The seized animals included lions, tigers, bears, camels, goats, water buffalo, and more. The animals are currently in the care of animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partner organizations.

During a 12-hour seizure hearing held on Aug. 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.


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