Modern Day Tarzan Seeks Jane

A day in the life of the man who lives among animals.

May 13, 2011, 11:50 AM

May 13, 2011 -- The Bengal tiger cubs are crawling all over Kody Antle. The sinewy 21-year-old scans down and grabs the scruff of the white one, known as a Siberian.

Mimicking the way mother tigers carry their young, his grip is firm, but not hard, and the weeks-old tiger begins to loll.

Dangling in the air he seems hypnotized, as Kody brings him down begins to scratch his belly -- not missing a beat.

Kody calls himself the "real Tarzan." The scion of a wild animal empire built by his father Baghavan "Doc" Antle, Kody's first friends were tiger cubs, plunked into his crib.

His big sister growing up was Bubbles, the 9,000-pound African elephant. His diapers were changed alongside those the gentle orangutans here who also became siblings.

"I prefer being called the real-life Tarzan," he says a little later, walking a 350-pound Bengal on a chain.

"I really believe I have some otherly connection with these animals because way I've been raised. We have this Tarzan-like connection…"

Where the fictional character went for the loincloth-look, Kody opts for safari gear and cargo pants. But he does have that mane of hair, that most often is bound in a neat pony-tail half way down his back.

A Day in the Life of the 'Real' Tarzan

Kody's job is to work with the 67 adult tigers, and myriad other animals at the Myrtle Beach Safari in Florida, the privately owned preserve founded by his father, which boasts the world's biggest assortment of tigers.

Several days a week the safari hosts shows in which Kody plays with tigers in a pool, howls with wolves and charges in on an elephant.

The cost is $200 per person, plus another $150 for the full gamut of videos and pictures.

Pretty steep, but as Kody explains, there are few other places in the world where one can take pictures with live tigers and orangutans.

Riding on Bubbles the African elephant, he explains, it's not about him, it's "about you making the connection of places where she is from… deeper connection with that thing, deeper connection with wildlife."

Gesturing down towards Bubbles as he clutched one of her beach umbrella-sized ears, he adds, "one can't help but have a piece of the wild up here in your hand."

Kody and his father often take Bubbles for a swim in the Intercoastal.

The dogs in the development through which she walks are so used to her they no longer bother to bark, though boaters do stop and snap pictures as she hoists Kody and this reporter in and out of the water with her trunk.

It's a good life. All that's missing is a Jane.

Kody has had numerous relationships lately, but none have lasted.

"I suppose I'd need my Jane to be athletic, but also tolerant of this lifestyle," he says, and the endless work and dedication it entails.

For one, when Kody goes out he has to leave his baby Gibbons ape Nyama with a baby-sitter.

And not everyone wants to wake up covered in ape fur and heave 500 pounds of meat into tigers mouths every day.

But Kody seems confident his Jane will arrive… someday.. .

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