A 425-Pound Tiger Living In A Harlem Apartment? Yes, It Happened

If you think you have seen or heard it all, I am sorry to say that you are so wrong, my friend. This story is not just surprising, it is shocking!

Can you believe that in 2001, Antoine Yates, or New York City’s Tiger Man, was found to be keeping a 425-pound tiger in his Harlem apartment?

Fascinated with Chinese culture, the 31-year-old construction worker bought the 8-week-old Siberian-Bengal mix from an exotic animal breeder for “a couple thousand” and named him Ming.

The tiger grew quickly, and his daily diet consisting of twenty pounds of chicken thighs helped him grew to his full-grown weight of 425 pounds in just three years.

Yates explained that his aim was not to domesticate him, but to “feed his instinct”.

He built a sandbox in the room of the tiger, and played games with him, to “stimulate his mind”. He claims that they had a natural bond, and considered Ming his best friend, a brother figure, and “my calling in life.”

Yates planned to create his personal “Garden of Eden”, where people and animals could interact with one another in harmony. He even put a down payment on a plot of land north of the city.

He said:

“It was all carefully thought-through — I was a matter of months from securing the property. My whole intention was to keep Ming low-key for a little bit of time before moving him, but it was interrupted.” 

In 2003, he purchased a stray kitten, named Shadow, and Ming lunged at it. Yates tried to help, so he got a huge gash to the leg.

He went to Harlem hospital and told doctors that he was attacked by a pit bull. Yet, as the wound was huge, doctors suspected his story and notified the authorities.

When officers arrived at his apartment, they got a glimpse inside using a miniature camera and soon, they discovered the tiger!

After rappelling down the side of the building, an officer shot the tiger with a tranquilizer gun, and he was carried out on a tarp.

Housing Authority officials claimed they had no idea that Yates kept the animal in his apartment, but neighbors often complained about the smell of urine that came out of there.

The authorities also found a five-foot-long alligator named Al inside the apartment, which was kept in a fiberglass tank.

Both animals were relocated to an animal sanctuary, Noah’s Lost Ark, in Berlin, Ohio.

Police were alerted that Yates had then gone to a Philadelphia hospital, where he was later arrested.

The entire story became front-page news, and Antoine was named “Tiger Man” in tabloids.

Yates got three months in prison and five years of probation for reckless endangerment and possession of a wild animal.

However, he insisted:

“Most of the time it was just me there, no family, no friends, no girlfriends. I never put the public or another soul in harm’s way. I’m not a hard-core criminal. I’m just a person with a passion for animals.” 

In February 2019, Ming died at age 19 of kidney and heart failure at the sanctuary. At the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, there is a stone monument to Ming, Tiger of Harlem, about 17 miles north of the apartment.

Yates claims that he plans to visit it, and adds that he still dreams of creating a utopian sanctuary:

“I’ll always love animals till I leave this planet — I’m not going to just give up because of the judicial system. I loved the experience. I would do it again.”