Netflix's true-crime documentary miniseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, as it goes without saying, is on the top of the chart since its release on March 20, 2020. And, seriously, with all the extra time we have been getting due to the nationwide quarantine, who wouldn't want to sit in front of the laptop all day binge-watching Netflix. Especially, a thrilling story about the majestic predators.
Nevertheless, despite the success of the show, the documentary casts are quite unhappy with their portrayal, including Mahamayavi Bhagavan "Doc" Antle. Here are a few things to know about the man who inspired Joe Exotic to become a zoo operator.
Born as Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle on March 15, 1960, Antle was raised by a wealthy agricultural family on an industrial farm in Salinas city of California. Bhagavan Antle's father took part in boxing and encouraged Antle to join martial arts training.
On the other hand, Antle's mother 'nurtured an interest in Eastern philosophy,' according to Rolling Stone, and would care sick horses and cows in the family kitchen.
Antle spent his childhood in Arizona, where his parents ran a cattle ranch, which led him to develop a love for animals. He wanted to be 'some blend between Rambo and the Dalai Lama' growing up; he told the Rolling Stone back in 2015.
The 60 years old wildlife park operator would spend his time competing in rodeos and training dogs instead of attending the school. As a teenager, having dropped from school before the ninth grade, he made arrangements to move to China through his family business connections.
Antle earned the 'doctor' title after relocating to China, where he reportedly received a doctoral degree in Chinese Medicine from the Chinese Science Foundation. In the docuseries, Antle is shown as the doctor of mystical science.
The docuseries claims that Antle chose to go by the name Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle, a name of Indian origin chosen by his mother as per Rolling Stone. Barbara Fisher, a former employee of Antle, further stated female workers were forced to change their original name into that of Asian or Hindu sounding names as Ranjnee and Moksha.
Meanwhile, Antle's family do not seem to have a consensus as to what 'Bhagavan' means. For Fischer, it means 'lord' while for Antle, Bhagavan implies 'friend of God.' Antle son, Kody, says it means "master of the universe, all-knowing, all-seeing kind of guy." Doc Antle's other name is Kevin Antle, a moniker he went by in school because people had 'difficulty pronouncing his unusual name.'
After returning from China with the 'Doc' title, he became more devoted to yoga and herbal medicine and began practicing alternative medicine in the community of Yogaville ashram in Virginia.
Shortly, he was approached by Exxon Corporation representatives to make a presentation with a tiger at the Exxon Annual Convention in 1982. The same year, he obtained a 100-pound tiger cub through a friend who worked in the zoo. Following year, Antle trained tigers for Exxon's "Put A Tiger In Your Tank" advertising campaign, which he participated for more than six years, becoming first Animal Ambassadors.
Taking his big cats to carnivals, malls, renaissance fairs, and conventions earned him enough to buy the multifamily horse ranch in Myrtle Beach property. Traveling around the states with the animal for years was starting to become onerous.
He founded the wildlife preserve, The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, also known as T.I.G.E.R.S., in the 50-acre property of Myrtle Beach, in 1983.
It has two locations: Myrtle Beach Safari and Preservation Station. The Beach Safari, which occupies 50 acres of land, houses more than 100 animals. The Station, on the other hand, is located in a busy tourist area called Barefoot Landing that offers photo packages with a tiger cub or monkey for a fee.
Antle makes a good amount of money from his business; he revealed in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone back in 2015.
The safari park visit is offered three times a week during the summer. The cost per person is $339; however, this fee doesn't include the charge for a professional photograph one wishes to take during the trip since personal photos and videos are not allowed. The price for photos increased from $5 to $20 and now starts at $150 and an extra $25 for each additional person in the photo group. Adding all the charges, one can expect to spend almost $500 for a visit.
The Myrtle Beach park alone grosses around $1.3 million annually, excluding the earnings from the cub photo storefront located at an outdoor mall in Myrtle Beach. The storefront sells pictures of cubs with a small facility in Miami that is part of Jungle Island amusement park, where the visitors can enjoy big cat shows.
Following the accusation from animal rights organizations regarding the violation of public and animal safety, South Carolina authorities raided Antle's safari park in December 2019.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division warranted the search of the park, according to ABC 15 News. However, Antle claimed that these warrants had nothing to do with the accusation and that the authorities came to the premises because lions in his park were descendants of lions from another park that had closed on account of animal cruelty charges.
As of now, Doc doesn't have any criminal charges; however, he has more than 35 USDA violations, the first one in December 1989for abandoning deer and peacocks at his zoo in Buckingham, Virginia.
According to PETA, a nonprofit animal rights organization,
"Antle has a long history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, including by endangering the public and by failing to provide animals with needed veterinary care, sufficient cage space, and clean water."
The Netflix miniseries suggested that the 60 years old big cat trainer lives a polyamorous lifestyle and is married to multiple female workers of Myrtle Beach Safari. Doc himself claimed that he has a "long-time girlfriend partner" living on the reserve since the age of 17.
He calls Ranjnee, who has been in the park for two decades, and Moksha, who has devoted 16 years in the park, as his 'girls,' causing people to assume if he was in a relationship with them as well. However, Antle has refuted the claim, in an interview with Oxygen, exclaiming,
"When I say 'my girl,' it’s a cowboy saying, it’s not that these are my wives. 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."
Antle's wife died in a car accident, leaving behind two children: a son, Kody Antle, referred to as "real-life Tarzan" and daughter, Tawny Antle. Antle children grew up around animals and currently work with their father in the park.