Get ready to learn about the man who was ‘Joe Exotic before Joe Exotic’.
Right at the start of the pandemic, Tiger King arrived at the perfect time to capture the world’s imagination. It was a story of intrigue, betrayal, abuse and (almost) murder, all while featuring some incredible big cats.
For the Joe Exotic pros, the infamous tiger breeder, singer and failed politician first became known to the masses via Louis Theroux in 2011, in America’s Most Dangerous Pets. But if we go back even further, there was another man who also kept tigers in his New York apartment.
@mndiaye_97Carole Baskins really merked her husband, fed him to tigers and we made a tiktok audio about it ##tigerking##truestory##newyork♬ Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano songs – Skittlegirl Sound
Clearly tapping into the discourse about Tiger King 2, the widely-slammed, sensationalised sequel to the original Netflix series, Mamadou Ndiaye (@mndiaye_97) posted a video to TikTok about Antoine Yates, the man who once owned the ‘Ming of Harlem’ back in 2001.
‘As a kid he was obsessed with animals – sounds familiar – and when he was three, he got his first pet which was a hamster. It only escalated from there,’ the TikToker says. ‘Fast-forward to 2003, Harlem police were called to his apartment to follow up on a complaint… the complaint being that he had a 6ft alligator named Al.’
When police used a camera to look in his home, they caught sight of the 450lb Bengal tiger, which Yates had been feeding with raw chicken from the supermarket. People only started really finding out about the tiger when he went to the hospital with bite and claw marks, which he claimed were inflicted by his dog.
Yates even had tenants along with the tiger, but one woman said they all became a family in the end.
By the time Yates was arrested, his mother was also charged because she used the apartment to babysit, putting children’s lives in danger. ‘When his neighbours were questioned, they said he had bear cubs, rabbits, monkeys, hyenas, snakes, one llama and even a lion cub,’ Ndiaye says.
In an earlier interview, Yates said he felt safer inside with his tiger than walking around outside as a Black man. ‘I was sick and tired of it. So I literally locked myself in the house, and I went and bought the tiger. Animals are only going to do what they set out to do as they were designed by God. But with a human, you never know what to expect. Never ever, ever, ever,’ he told Mel Magazine.
The tiger was tranquilised and taken to Noah’s Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary, where it lived out the rest of its days until 2019. Yates later tried to sue the city for the loss of his animals, but the judge dismissed his case.
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