Radha Hirsch, gained fame as the ex-wife of Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the controversial animal trainer and private zoo operator featured in the hit Netflix docuseries Tiger King. Their brief marriage and disturbing relationship sparked curiosity and outrage among viewers.
We were honored to sit down with Radha Hirsch, for a candid one-on-one interview. With grace and courage, Radha shared details about her difficult personal experience as an underage bride to Tiger King’s Doc Antle.
Early Life and Meeting Doc Antle
Radha Hirsch was born around 1976 in Virginia, making her about 16 years younger than Doc Antle. Her mother is Diane Ducharme.
Radha first met Doc Antle in 1987 at the Yogaville ashram in Virginia when she was about 11 years old. Her mother traveled frequently for work, so Radha often stayed with neighbors at the ashram. She started babysitting for Doc Antle and his first wife Betsy while they lived at the ashram.
According to Radha, she was immediately enthralled by Doc Antle when she first saw him. She spent increasing amounts of time at his house, staying over on weekends.
Underage Relationship with Doc Antle
By age 14, Radha had developed an inappropriate romantic attachment to Doc Antle, who was 26 years old at the time. In the Tiger King docuseries, Radha said, “I was 14 the first time anything romantic happened. He told me it was one of his specialties.”
Betsy Antle caught on to the illicit relationship and informed Radha’s mother. Concerned, Diane Ducharme sent Radha to a Catholic school outside of Virginia to separate her from Doc. However, he persisted, picking her up from school on several occasions and taking her to a motel for a month.
Marriage at Age 15
In 1989, when Radha was only 15 years old, she and Doc Antle got married. They forged her father’s signature on the marriage certificate since she was underage.
Her distraught mother eventually found out about the marriage but felt powerless to intervene. She hoped her teenage daughter would realize she had made a mistake.
During their marriage from 1989 to 1991, Doc Antle was allegedly still pursuing relationships with other underage girls.
Divorce and Escape
After two years of marriage, Radha divorced Doc Antle. The exact reasons are unclear, but Radha has since said she became uncomfortable with aspects of their relationship. When Doc was away one day, she hastily packed up and left their Virginia home.
Radha drove to California with a friend to start a new life. As shown in Tiger King, her mother Diane expressed relief that she got away from Doc Antle unharmed.
Where is Radha Hirsch Now?
Now around 50 years old, Radha Hirsch currently lives in Arizona away from the public eye. She seems to have avoided fame since her appearance on Tiger King.
It is unknown if she got married again or has children. But she is finally free after escaping Doc Antle’s disturbing influence as a vulnerable teenager.
Doc Antle’s Continued Controversies
Meanwhile, Doc Antle has remained mired in controversies about his exploitation of women and endangered animals at his Myrtle Beach Safari zoo in South Carolina.
More former employees have come forward with misconduct allegations since Tiger King aired on Netflix. In June 2022, he was indicted on wildlife trafficking charges.
Radha Hirsch’s story sheds light on Doc Antle’s decades-long predatory behavior toward girls and young women. Her courage in speaking out helps expose an important truth – that wealth and fame should never obscure injustice.
Radha Hirsch Interview:
Q: How did you first meet Doc Antle?
A: I was around 11 years old when I met him at the Yogaville ashram in Virginia. My mom traveled a lot for work, so I stayed with neighbors at the ashram. I started babysitting for Doc and his wife Betsy while they lived there. I was enamored with Doc right away.
Q: When did your relationship turn inappropriate?
A: When I was 14, things started getting romantic between us. He was 26 at the time. I know now I was too young to consent to anything.
Q: How did your mother react when she found out?
A: She was very concerned. She sent me to a Catholic school outside Virginia to get me away from him. But Doc kept pursuing me, picking me up from school repeatedly.
Q: How old were you when you married?
A: I was only 15 when we got married in 1989. We forged my father’s signature on the marriage certificate since I was underage. My mother was distraught but felt powerless.
Q: Why did you get divorced after 2 years?
A: I became uncomfortable with aspects of our relationship. Doc still pursued other underage girls during our marriage. When he was away one day, I packed my things and drove to California with a friend to start over.
Q: Where are you living now and what are you doing?
A: I’m around 50 years old now and living a quiet life in Arizona. I prefer to avoid the spotlight.
Q: What do you think of Doc Antle’s zoo operations and treatment of animals?
A: Based on what I’ve learned, I’m very disturbed by reports of animal exploitation and neglect there. Doc sees living beings as objects for profit and control.
Q: Do you follow the ongoing criminal cases against Doc Antle?
A: I do follow the news somewhat, though it’s painful. The trafficking charges don’t surprise me given his long history of exploiting the vulnerable.
Q: Do you have any advice for other young girls?
A: Don’t ignore red flags about a predatory relationship. Speak out right away – to your parents, a counselor, the authorities. You have more power than you realize.
Q: Is there anything else you want people to know?
A: I don’t want anyone else to be victimized by predators like Doc Antle. Speaking my truth helps expose these abuses of power. My voice matters.
Radha Hirsch was an unwitting victim of predator Doc Antle’s underage fetishization and abuse of power. Her experiences as his teenage bride turned a shocking spotlight on Antle’s misconduct featured in Tiger King.
Though Hirsch leads a quiet life today, her willingness to recount her trauma helps prevent further harm to others.
The story of Radha Hirsch matters as a cautionary tale against valuing animals and humans as mere objects for exploitation.