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Who Is Doc Antle? Meet The Man With Multiple Wives And Multiple Tigers Who Inspired Joe Exotic

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Who Is Doc Antle? Meet The Man With Multiple Wives And Multiple Tigers Who Inspired Joe Exotic

Tiger King, though mainly the story of a rivalry between roadside zoo owner Joe Exotic and animal rights activist Carole Baskin, is also a detailed look at the world of exotic animal owners in America. On the one side, there are people like Joe Exotic, who owns a private zoo with dozens of wild animals, where guests can pay extra for a chance to pet a tiger cub. One the other side is Carole Baskin, a woman who literally wears wreaths of flowers in her hair, who wants to shut down operations like Joe's on the grounds that breeding big cat cubs is cruel. 

RELATED: Who Is Carole Baskin? Meet 'Tiger King' Joe Exotic's Mortal Enemy

While the series is mainly about how the antagonism between Baskin and Joe Exotic reached a boiling point when Joe Exotic tried to hire a hitman to kill Baskin, it also looks at other private zoo owners to emphasize the colorful natures of people who want to live among giant carnivorous cats. 

One person featured in the series is a man called Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, who owns an interactive animal facility in South Carolina and inspired some of Joe Exotic's zoo operation.

Who is Doc Antle? Read on for more details.

Antle cames from an unconventional background.

Born in 1960, Bhagavan Kevin Antle grew up on an industrial farm in Salinas, California. His family was fairly well off and they embraced activities like eastern philosophy and martial arts. He cared for animals from the time he was very young and he envisioned his life being a combination of animal work and martial arts.  “Some blend between Rambo and the Dalai Lama – that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up,” he told reporters. He never finished high school and instead went to China where he got some training in basic medical care — hence the nickname "Doc" — and got heavily into yoga and eastern medicine. He returned to the US and parlayed that into work as a spiritual guru, lecturing at ashrams and even having a role at Exxon as a spiritual advisor. 

He didn't get into big cats out of a real draw toward the animals, but more as an image thing. He saw himself as emulating the character David Carradine played in the TV show Kung Fu. “I said okay, if I was this character, I should have a giant tiger that acts like a pet.” He managed to get a tiger in 1982 and spent many months training it to be gentle enough to be around people. He started taking it with him to conferences, where people asked for photos with the animal. He realized he could make money on the photo ops and that began his career exhibiting animals. 


A post shared by Dr. Bhagavan Antle (@docantle) on Jan 21, 2020 at 4:43am PST

Antle with his pet elephant.

He has some credibility as a legitimate animal trainer.

His early years of taking cats and other animals to public events where people could interact with them didn't go unnoticed. Hollywood came calling and he was involved in films as a trainer for animal actors. He worked on the 1994 remake of The Jungle Book as well as Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Mighty Joe Young. Antle and his animals made multiple appearances on The Tonight Show and he worked on the Eddie Murphy Dr. Doolittle

He opened The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species or T.I.G.E.R.S In Myrtle Beach.

Antle's zoo, or refuge, or interactive experience, however you see it, is a 50-acre plot of land where people can pay hundreds of dollars to go on a tour of the facility and have different levels of interaction with big cats, as well as animals like chimps and elephants. However, the way he staffs it is unconventional, to say the least. 

The staff of the park aren't trained zoologists but are instead people who volunteer to be part of the lifestyle he insists on. They live and work on the property, with no days off, and they receive only a small stipend as pay. They begin as interns and work their way up to different levels of interaction with the animals.

To add yet another level of weirdness to the system, there are persistent rumors that the women who work there are all part of Antle's harem and the whole operation is basically a cult. 

RELATED: Who Is Joe Exotic? Inside New 'Tiger King' Netflix Show About Tiger Breeder Who Plots Murder-For-Hire

One ex-staffer says Antle made her get a boob job.

There are a number of women who work at T.I.G.E.R.S and they all have unusual names — bestowed upon by Antle — and wear sexy outfits when they interact with the public. In the series Tiger King, various people speculate that Antle has between three and six wives and say he has always had a harem of women living on his property. 

One ex-staffer says all of them are sexually involved with Antle and he constructs their images to suit him and appeal to audiences. Barbara Fisher, who worked for Antle from 1999 to 2007, alleged in the docu-series that he encouraged young women to work for him and liked to be their first sexual partners so "they would be bonded to him in this way, where he felt like he could get them to do anything." She also recalled for the cameras that he wanted her to get breast implants and, while she didn't really want to go along with it, she also didn't refuse. She said that she ultimately went through with the surgery to get a few days to rest because the grueling work schedule of 9am-midnight, 7 days a week, was exhausting.

She also implied that he was euthanizing animals when they grew too large to interact with the public. Antle is a prolific cub breeder and Fisher talked about how after a while, some cats would just disappear from the property. She didn't know if they had been sold or put down and she never asked. 

Antle now says the women aren't his wives.

On camera, Antle talked about the women who work for him in very familiar terms, saying they are all a "great, big, cohesive family unit." He tells the filmmakers about the female staff like China, who has been living on the preserve since she was 17, his "long-time girlfriend partner." There was also a woman calling herself Ranjnee, who has been there for 20 years and Moksha, who has been there for 16 years. These aren't their real names — Fisher shared that he chose names for the girls to conform with the exotic images he liked them to portray. He showed off their houses on the property and spoke in familiar and affectionate terms about his "girls" as he called them. 

However, since the series began airing, he has tried to dispel the image of himself as sexual svengali. “When I say 'my girl,' it’s a cowboy saying, it’s not that these are my wives," he told reporters. "Sure I've had girlfriends and there’s girls I have had relationships with that have come and gone over the decades. I am absolutely not married nor have I been since my wife died over 20 years ago now," he continued. "I’m not married and I certainly don’t have wives. I certainly am a single guy and I live in a house by myself."

Antle allegedly chooses the uniforms female staff wear. 

What is Doc Antle doing now?

Because Antle wasn't involved in the murder-for-hire scheme at the heart of Tiger King, his operation hasn't faced any fallout from that scandal. However, he's been investigated as recently as 2019 on suspicions that he has bought cubs that came from a different facility that was shit down for animal mistreatment. He was not charged in that incident. 

For now, T.I.G.E.R.S. is up and running and anyone with the ticket price can take the tour. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.