Investigation at Myrtle Beach Safari centers around three lion cubs, owner says

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 at 11:58 AM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach Safari is at the center of a multi-state investigation.

Tommy Crosby, the spokesperson for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, said agents served search warrants Wednesday afternoon at Myrtle Beach Safari.

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, said SLED agents were there due to an investigation originating in Virginia. He said it centers around the background and history of three lion cubs that he has had in his possession since this summer.

Antle said swabs were taken of lions in order to get their DNA and track their heritage.

“They wanted us to try to help them look at the trail as to where the lions had come from and any evidence of clues as to what the lions’ lives had been like before they moved here,” Antle said.

According to Antle, he’s had the lions for roughly four months, since they were cubs. He said the cubs’ mother was not taking care of them, so the safari took them in.

Antle maintains that Myrtle Beach Safari has done nothing wrong.

“Just looking at all the pieces to go back to another investigation. Myrtle Beach Safari isn’t at fault for anything, they’re just asking us to supply them with a ton of information in an ongoing case,” Antle said.

According to Antle, the ongoing case involves Wild Wilson’s Animal Park, a zoo in Virginia. WMBF New verified that the zoo closed in August after a judge ruled the owner had poorly treated and neglected 119 animals in his care.

Now Antle believes the investigation into his business is driven by similar groups that shined a light on the previous zoo that was shut down.

“To me, it appears to be very animal rights, anti-zoo driven into what the investigation is for,” Antle said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement on the investigation at Myrtle Beach Safari. The organization has had a number of issues with Myrtle Beach Safari over the years.

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has a rap sheet of federal Animal Welfare Act violations a mile long, exploits cubs for the big-cat petting industry, has ties to unscrupulous characters like convicted murder-for-hire and big-cat trafficking culprit Joe Maldonado-Passage, and uses animals for harmful hands-on encounters, photo ops, and publicity stunts. PETA has been on his case for years, and it’s long past time that authorities paid him and his shady business a visit.

RELATED STORY: Myrtle Beach animal exhibit under federal investigation

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