In the months since the premier of Tiger King, I have found myself inundated with questions regarding my name. Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle is my given name, not some alias as implied by national animal rights groups.
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and grew up on my parent’s cattle ranch in southern California. My mother was interested in eastern philosophy and chose my Hindu name, Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle. Because of difficulties with pronunciation, I went by “Kevin” in school.
When I was a young man, I studied Chinese Medicine. My friends started calling me “Doc.” The nickname stuck. Most people now call me by my nickname, “Doc Antle.” That’s all there is to it— Nothing to do with the salacious story told by Tiger King, nor dark implications by Carole Baskin and her animal rights friends bent on destroying my reputation— Just a man with an unusual name. That is all.
Tiger King, the new drama series that debuted on Netflix last week, is not a documentary, it is quasi-fictional drama, more interested in shock value and titillation than fact. While focusing on dramatizing the real life rivalry between Joe “Exotic” and Carole Baskin and their crazy “murder for hire,” made for reality TV hi jinx , the insinuation that TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari exploits tiger cubs is a reprehensible misrepresentation.
We were told by Tiger King producers, that the show would focus on our enriching habitats and all of the conservation work that is at the heart of what we do. TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari has a massive, state of the art facility, unequaled anywhere in the world. We provide our animals with unprecedented 24/7 care and attention from a trained, professional staff. Enrichment opportunities for our cats and primates are unique to us among even the best of zoos in this country— Illustrating our good work is the bill of goods the directors of Tiger King sold to secure our participation.
Tiger King producers spent many days on our property witnessing what we do— socializing, exercising, interacting, training and providing only wholesome, biologically appropriate nutrition to all of the animals in our care. However, the filmmakers chose to omit all of the positive work we do with and for animals in their Netflix “mockumentary”.
Instead, Tiger King focuses on the salacious personalities, conflicts and crimes of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, and then attempts to paint our program with the same brush as their third rate, inadequate backyard operations. It’s incomprehensible. TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari is a multi-million dollar, cutting edge wonderland for rare and endangered species that attracts visitors from around the world. If a trip into the world of Joe Exotic and his rival Carole Baskin is a ride through the trailer park, visiting the exceptional amenities we offer our animals is like arriving at the Ritz Carlton.
It is important to understand that all of our cubs are born here at the preserve and are part of our breeding program (Species Survival Trust or SST) that is conducted in partnership with Brian W. Davis, Ph.D, an Assistant Professor of Genomics in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences in the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the founder of the Exotic Genome Repository. This distinguishes our programs from others. Our cubs are not bred solely for the purpose of being part of our interactive programs. They are bred as a conservation measure to help ensure species survival. Our captive tiger breeding program creates an invisible ark for the genetic backup of wild tiger populations that are threatened throughout the world by loss of habitat. Without conservation through captive breeding, the species face extinction.
Contrary to the false assertions made in the Tiger King, our tiger cubs are never euthanized or sold. They do not end up in dead end sanctuaries, in cramped, rusty cages. They remain at our preserve for their entire lives— either here on site at TIGERS, or they are transferred to an accredited zoological facility that is a partner in our breeding program (SST) to help support genetic diversity in captive tigers.
Because we breed with the expectation of keeping our tigers into their old age, we produce very few cubs per year. We are a seasonal business in Myrtle Beach open only 8 months per year. Visitors to our facilities are permitted three days per week, and highly supervised interaction takes place with only 3-6 cubs for 20 minutes per tour maximum. Cubs are allowed to meet guests on a limited basis until the age of 16-20 weeks old.
TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari adheres to all of the regulations and guidelines set out by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA), as administered by the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Tigers are an endangered species, and as such FWS and USDA require extensive documentation regarding welfare, births, deaths, transport and changing dispositions of our animals. We submit to regular inspections of our facility and audits of all of our records. TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari has never been found to be in violation of the AWA, nor the ESA.
The amazing moments that visitors are able to spend with our animal ambassadors are instrumental in helping our non-profit charity, the Rare Species Fund (RSF), support many of the last wild places on Earth. Premiums paid by visitors have funded the RSF’s reopening of Soraya Forest Research Station in Sumatra. Soraya Station is located in one of the most important research and conservation locals in the world. They protect many critically endangered species; tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans— standing guard to one of the very last precious pieces of our world’s unique wildlife system where tigers still live in the wild. Poaching is down 90% in the area since RSF was able to fund payment for wildlife rangers at Soraya. This is just one example of the realization of our dream; creating ambassador programs that support and invest people in on-the-ground conservation around the globe. We believe the experience we have created at Myrtle Beach Safari is unlike any you will ever achieve elsewhere, but more importantly, it can truly transform the world.