Fresno · Politics

Jim Exotic? How a Valley rep met ‘Tiger King’ subject and his tiger cubs

Aside from coronavirus itself, the second-most viral thing to come out of quarantine is the Netflix limited series “Tiger King.”

It appears one Valley Congressman had his own run-in with a subject from the documentary, along with his collection of exotic cubs.

The streaming series highlights the bizarre world of exotic animal owners and exhibitors, centering a feud between Oklahoma private zoo owner Joe Maldonado-Passage (otherwise known as “Joe Exotic”) and Florida nonprofit leader Carole Baskin that escalates to a murder-for-hire plot.

With the series becoming the most-binge-watched feature on Netflix, the profiles of Maldonado-Passage, Baskin, and another big cat enthusiast, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle of Myrtle Beach, S.C., have dramatically risen.

Antle, the operator of The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) Zoo in Myrtle Beach, S.C. is featured as a third-party to the feud between Joe Exotic and Baskin.

One episode is largely focused on Antle’s zoo and his zoo’s workforce, comprised of the big cat conservationist’s numerous girlfriends.

At a point in the series, Baskin bemoaned the fact that big cat exhibitors would visit Capitol Hill and show their cubs to members of Congress and staff for controlled meet-and-greets.

One Valley congressman, Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) appears to have attended one of these meet and greets led by Antle himself.

Photos posted by Steven Smith, press secretary for Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.), show Costa meeting tiger cubs in a committee room in the Longworth House Office Building.

Smith tweeted that the meet-and-greet occurred in March 2015.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at [email protected]