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‘Tiger King’ animal trainer ‘Doc’ Antle gets suspended sentence for wildlife trafficking in Virginia

Bhagavan "Doc" Antle in the Netflix series "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."Netflix

WINCHESTER, Va. — An animal trainer featured in the popular Netflix series “Tiger King” has received a suspended two-year sentence after being convicted of wildlife trafficking in Virginia, the state attorney general’s office announced.

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle also was banned from owning and dealing in exotic wild animals in the state for five years, Attorney General Jason Miyares said Tuesday in a statement.

Antle was accused of illegally buying endangered lion cubs in Frederick County, Virginia, for display and profit at his South Carolina zoo. A jury convicted him in June of two felony counts each of wildlife trafficking and conspiring to wildlife traffic. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.


Antle, who owns the Myrtle Beach Safari, appeared in “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a Netflix documentary miniseries that focused on tiger breeders.

Prosecutors said Myrtle Beach Safari’s lucrative petting zoo motivated Antle to maintain a steady supply of immature lion cubs and that there were illegal cub exchanges in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Miyares said the prosecution of the case sends a clear message.

“In Virginia, we uphold the rule of law without exception, whether dealing with violent repeat offenders, big pharma, fraudsters and scammers, or wildlife traffickers,” he said.

In January 2022, a federal judge sentenced Joe Exotic — whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage and who was also featured in “Tiger King” — to 21 years in prison, despite pleas from the former zookeeper for leniency as he began treatment for cancer.