View Full Version : From a Cub to a Menace, and Now a Mystery

October 6th, 2003, 01:28 AM
October 6, 2003

From a Cub to a Menace, and Now a Mystery


After being tranquilized by the police, Ming, a 400-pound Bengal tiger, was carried from an apartment building in a Harlem housing project.

His obsession began innocently enough, with the puppies and broken-winged birds every little boy begs to bring home. Over the years, Antoine Yates's taste in animals grew ever more exotic, neighbors said, and his collection came to include reptiles, a monkey or two and, according to one neighbor, even a hyena.

He had a deep affection for living creatures in need of a home that he might have picked up from his mother, Martha Yates. She had raised dozens of foster children in her five-bedroom apartment in a public housing high-rise in Harlem, according to one of her foster sons.

In time, Mr. Yates's most exotic pet, a tiger that he named Ming, grew to more than 400 pounds, and that happy home disintegrated. Terrified, Ms. Yates, 67, packed up the last two of her foster children and moved to a suburb of Philadelphia earlier this year, neighbors said.

Mr. Yates, 37, hard pressed to control the tiger, apparently decamped, too, to a nearby apartment. He continued to feed the tiger by throwing raw chickens through a door opened just narrowly enough to keep a paw the size of a lunch plate from swiping through, neighbors said.

On Saturday, the police moved in, alerted by Mr. Yates's curious call in which he claimed to have been bitten by a pit bull. They discovered Ming and managed to remove him, but only after a sharpshooter rappelled down the side of the apartment building and shot it with tranquilizer darts. The mission created a swirl of excitement in the neighborhood and left a series of questions for an assortment of officials. The police are trying to determine where Mr. Yates got a tiger cub and how he managed to raise it from kitten to menace in a public housing project.

Officials at the city's Administration for Children's Services said they were trying to determine whether foster children had lived in the apartment while the tiger and other dangerous animals were there. Officials of the New York City Housing Authority were trying to determine how the tiger escaped the notice of workers at the complex. As was obvious on Saturday, his roar is ferocious.

People who live in the building in the Drew Hamilton Houses at 2430 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard said the tiger had lived among them for at least three years. His presence, while strange, was widely known and did not really alarm anyone, they said.

Jerome Applewhite, 43, who lives on the 18th floor, first encountered Ming about three years ago, when he stopped at the apartment for a visit and saw Mr. Yates sitting with the tiger cub cradled in his arms.

"He was feeding it with a bottle," Mr. Applewhite said. "He cared for his pets."

It did not surprise him much, he said, that an animal seen only in the East or the north, if that includes the Bronx Zoo should show up in a city apartment. "It was a house pet," Mr. Applewhite said. "To me that is cool."

City officials did not share his view. "Tigers are dangerous animals," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg told reporters yesterday at a news conference on Fifth Avenue before marching in the Pulaski Day Parade. "Clearly this tiger should not have been anyplace in New York City outside of a zoo."

Investigators from the New York Police Department were questioning Mr. Yates yesterday, who was placed under guard after he was located at a Philadelphia hospital. On Wednesday, he went to Harlem Hospital Center, where he gave skeptical doctors his account of being bitten by a pit bull. He checked out early Saturday, prompting an inquiry into his whereabouts.

Mr. Yates could be charged with reckless endangerment, the police said, and he will be returned to New York after he is released from the Philadelphia hospital, the police said.

Kathleen Carlson, a spokeswoman for the Administration for Children's Services, said the agency was "looking into our history, if any, at this address."

Howard Marder, a spokesman for the housing authority, which oversees public housing, said officials were trying to determine when the apartment was last inspected and how a tiger was not detected. He said authority records indicated that one complaint was received about the smell of urine coming from the apartment.

Public housing residents are permitted only one pet, and it must weigh no more than 40 pounds, Mr. Marder said. It was unclear exactly who was supposed to be living in the Yateses' apartment, he added. He said records indicated that Ms. Yates moved out in January, but neighbors said she was still living in the apartment as recently as June.

The tiger, along with a five-foot-long alligator-like reptile called a caiman that was also found in the apartment, was taken to a New York animal shelter, and the tiger has been sent to live in a wildlife preserve in Ohio, city officials said.

Residents of the Drew Hamilton Houses who knew Mr. Yates said yesterday that he was well known as an outsized character who, above all else, loved animals, but none of them were sure how he came to have a tiger cub.

"Every time I have ever seen him, he was talking about his exotic animals," said Wanda Tompkins, 26, whose family has lived in the apartment directly below Mr. Yates's for five years. "He was nice, but he was strange a bit."

Ms. Tompkins's mother, Valerie, said she had long known that a strange assortment of beasts lived upstairs. It was not a problem until this summer, when she tried to raise her windows and found the sills soaked with urine and an animal stench invading her apartment.

"I complained to housing, but they never responded," Valerie Tompkins said. "It does sound far fetched."

She had never seen the tiger, but her daughter Janaya had. Janaya, 11, was a friend of one of Ms. Yates's foster children, a girl named Dana, Janaya said.

"She asked me if I wanted to see the tiger," Janaya said. She told Dana, yes, she did want to see it, and she was led to one of the apartment's bedrooms. The tiger was lying inside a cage. Janaya said she was too terrified to pet it. "It was scary," she said.

Raven Eaton, who works at the nearby Associated Supermarket, said Mr. Yates would come into the store every afternoon to buy several bags of raw chicken.

"He said they were for his animals," Ms. Eaton said. He never said what kind of animals he had. "He was as normal as someone like Antoine could be."

Whatever his motives, city officials said, it is both unsafe and cruel to keep a tiger in an apartment. A police officer who answered the telephone in Mr. Yates's room at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia said Mr. Yates did not wish to be interviewed.

Last night, a young woman who answered the door of Martha Yates's two-story house in Yeadon, Pa., just west of Philadelphia, identified herself as a daughter and said her mother would have no comment.

Mr. Yates's brother Aaron, 24, said Antoine Yates cared for his animals and never wanted to hurt them.

"His love for animals started when we were babies," he said. "He would nurse animals off the street. He got that from my mother."

"He was straight up," he added. "He raised a healthy tiger. They should find him a job with animals."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 8th, 2003, 09:46 PM
October 9, 2003

Pity the Poor Gator, Lost in All the Roar


And it's no caiman.

Now it is time to look at things from the alligator's point of view.

The tiger became an instant superstar whose fame lasted more than 15 minutes. He got his mug, all mean and menacing, on the front pages and was mentioned on late-night comedy shows. He went from a seven-room apartment in Harlem to an even bigger home where he will have his own swimming pool. He was lionized by his owner, Antoine Yates, who continued to profess undying love after he was arraigned on Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Not a word about the gator, whom Mr. Yates seems not to have bothered to name. Or, if he did, the alligator's name was lost in all the hoopla about a tiger in an apartment.

Think about it: ordinarily, a 65-pound alligator in an apartment would be news. But put a tiger in the same apartment, and the alligator is all but ignored. Not to mention the indignity of being mistaken for a caiman. That is enough to give an alligator an inferiority complex. And alligators are not accustomed to inferiority complexes any more than they are accustomed to apartment complexes. An alligator is accustomed to waddling around thinking, to the extent that alligators think coherent thoughts that can be translated into words, "attention must be paid to me, right now."

Willy Loman an alligator is not, except when his apartment-mate is a tiger.

So neighborly get-togethers between the occupants of Apartment 5-E at 2430 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard where, the animal experts say, they must have had separate bedrooms, were out of the question. Had there been even a moment of face time, "there would be no alligator," said James Doherty, the general curator of the Bronx Zoo. Or, as Larry Wallach, the animal handler who hauled the alligator and the tiger away from Mr. Yates's building, said, "That would be like Mighty Joe Young meeting Godzilla."

But the alligator might not have been unhappy with apartment life. "I don't see that it would be, if it grew up this way," Mr. Doherty said.

The creature comforts that matter to a creature with scaly skin and an appetite for whole chickens are different from those of other tenants, who care more about the height of ceilings or the view of the outside. "I don't think he would climb up and look out the window," said Bill Holmstrom, the zoo's collection manager for reptiles.

An eat-in kitchen would not have mattered much, Mr. Holmstrom said, since the alligator could not drink from the kitchen faucet. (He would have liked to duck under the surface in a full bathtub.)

Mr. Yates said it was Ming the tiger who became toothy. Soon Mr. Yates was on the way to the hospital with a story the doctors did not believe about a too-frisky pit bull, and Ming was on the way to fame. And the alligator? It was almost as if he had been placed in a reptile-protection program. No one seemed to know where he was, assuming he is a he. (No one seemed to know that, either, or, this being New York, whether he had clawed his way to Mr. Yates's domain after crawling out of a sewer.)

It took a few telephone calls to find out that he spent Saturday night with his 5 1/2-foot frame stretched out in front of the television, watching "The Crocodile Hunter," the Animal Planet series with the Australian adventurer Steve Irwin.

What was the alligator's favorite moment? "When we were able to shut off the program," said Mr. Wallach, who has named the alligator Lucky and was stretched out with him at his house on Long Island. "I don't think Lucky wanted to be reminded of what people do to chase crocodiles." Even though, of course, a crocodile is an entirely different species from an alligator.

Like Ming, he is now in Ohio, though only temporarily. He will be moved to a wildlife sanctuary in Indiana next week. For now, they are 56 miles apart Ming is in Berlin Center, and Lucky is in Columbia Station, where he has his own stall, surrounded, once again, by other creatures, including bears and a pair of albino raccoons.

"He's kind of keeping to himself, not neighborly," said Sam Mazzola, who runs Lucky's home, World Animal Studios. "It opened its mouth and chased me out of the way the first night it was here." By Tuesday, he said, "It's sitting under the heat lamp giving me the eyeball. Reptiles, you can't tell. They don't smile, they don't growl, they just bite when they feel like it."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 9th, 2003, 04:54 AM
No Elephants, No Even-Toed Ungulates, and No Otter Shrews!

Originally featured on October 6, 2003

After hearing about the tiger and alligator discovered living in an apartment in Harlem, we thought you might like to have the full rundown of animals prohibited as pets in New York City by the Department of Health (Health Code 161.01: Wild animals prohibited).

(1) All dogs other than domesticated dogs, including, but not limited to, wolf, fox, coyote, hyaena, dingo, jackal, dhole, fennec, raccoon dog, zorro, bush dog, aardwolf, cape hunting dog and any hybrid offspring of a wild dog and domesticated dog.

(2) All cats other than domesticated cats, including, but not limited to, lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, puma, panther, mountain lion, cheetah, wild cat, cougar, bobcat, lynx, serval, caracal, jaguarundi, margay and any hybrid offspring of a wild cat and domesticated cat.

(3) All bears, including polar, grizzly, brown and black bear.

(4) All fur bearing mammals of the family Mustelidae, including, but not limited to, weasel, marten, mink, badger, ermine, skunk, otter, pole cat, zorille, wolverine, stoat and ferret.

(5) All Procyonidae: All raccoon, kinkajou, cacomistle, cat-bear, panda and coatimundi.

(6) All carnivorous mammals of the family Viverridae, including, but not limited to, civet, mongoose, genet, binturong, fossa, linsang and suricate.

(7) All bats.

(8) All non-human primates including, but not limited to, monkey, ape, chimpanzee, gorilla and lemur.

(9) All squirrels.

(10) Reptiles. All Helodermatidae (gila monster and Mexican beaded lizard); all front-fanged venomous snakes, even it devenomized, including, but not limited to, all Viperidae (viper, pit viper), all Elapidae (cobra, mamba, krait, coral snake), all Atractaspididae (African burrowing asp), all Hydrophiidae (sea snake), all Laticaudidae (sea krait); all venomous, mid-or rear-fanged, Duvernoy-glanded members of the family Colubridae, even if devenomized; any member, or hybrid offspring of the family Boidae, including, but not limited to, the common or green anaconda and yellow anaconda; any member of the family Pythonidae, including but not limited to the African rock python, Indian or Burmese python, Amethystine or scrub python; any member of the family Varanidae, including the white throated monitor, Bosc's or African savannah monitor, Komodo monitor or dragon, Nile monitor, crocodile monitor, water monitor, Bornean earless monitor; any member of the family Iguanidae, including the green or common iguana; any member of the family Teiidae, including, but not limited to the golden, common, or black and white tegu; all members of the family Chelydridae, including snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtle; and all members of the order Crocodylia, including, but not limited to alligator, caiman and crocodile.

(11) Birds and Fowl: All predatory or large birds, including, but not limited to, eagle, hawk, falcon, owl, vulture, condor, emu, rhea and ostrich; roosters, geese, ducks and turkeys.

(12) All venomous insects, including, but not limited to, bee, hornet and wasp.

(13) Arachnida and Chilopoda: All venomous spiders, including, but not limited to, tarantula, black widow and solifugid; scorpion; all venomous arthropods including, but not limited to, centipede.

(14) All large rodents, including, but not limited to, gopher, muskrat, paca, woodchuck, marmot, beaver, prairie dog, capybara, sewellel, viscacha, porcupine and hutia.

(15) All even-toed ungulates including, but not limited to, deer, antelope, sheep, giraffe and hippopotamus. (16) All odd-toed ungulates other than domesticated horses, including, but not limited to, zebra, rhinoceros and tapir.

(17) All marsupials, including, but not limited to, Tasmanian devil, dasyure, bandicoot, kangaroo, wallaby, opossum, wombat, koala bear, cuscus, numbat and pigmy, sugar and greater glider.

(18) Sea mammals including, but not limited to, dolphin, whale, seal, sea lion and walrus.

(19) All elephants.

(20) All hyrax.

(21) All pangolin.

(22) All sloth and armadillo.

(23) Insectivorous mammals: All aardvark, anteater, shrew, otter shrew, gymnure, desman, tenrec, mole and hedge hog.

(24) Gliding lemur.


October 9th, 2003, 10:10 AM
Damn, I have to set my pet whale free.

October 9th, 2003, 10:00 PM
Same with my polar bear. :cry:

December 19th, 2003, 06:07 AM
December 19, 2003

From Tiger Man to Sharp-Dressed Man for His Day in Court


Antoine Yates, the person who has come to be known as Tiger Man for housing his 400-pound Bengal tiger in a Harlem apartment, showed up at Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday in high style.

In his last court appearance, he looked bedraggled in white sweat pants and a sling, but this time Mr. Yates's outfit consisted of a striking monochromatic white shirt-and-tie combination under a dark suit. He topped the look with a hat, a black bowler, and a splash of color a red feather, to match his red earring.

Then there was the entourage, consisting of a state assemblyman, a defense lawyer from a high-profile Manhattan firm and a special assistant for the assemblyman. Then there was the private security team, consisting of beefy bodyguards clearing a path from car to courtroom, one in a full-length fur coat.

People going about their business inside the court building, at 100 Centre Street, wondered about the identity of the man and clamored for a better look. It seemed clear that Mr. Yates, jobless and homeless, had, with the help of his handlers, made a savvy transition from oddball defendant to celebrity-in-waiting.

Reporters chatted up his team. Newspaper photographers snapped his picture.

"Antoine is, despite his characterization, not a kook," said the assemblyman, Keith L. T. Wright, who represents the 70th District in Harlem. "I'm here to show support as his assemblyperson, to help him find a job, possibly with animals."

Mr. Yates, 37, was arrested in October on charges of reckless endangerment and the possession of a wild animal.

He could face seven years in prison if convicted on the charges, which stemmed from the discovery of Ming, his tiger, in his apartment in a public housing complex.

The case came to light after Mr. Yates called police claiming to have been bitten by a pit bull. They managed to remove Ming after a sharpshooter shot him with tranquilizer darts.

At the time, Mr. Yates said that he was keeping the tiger "to show the whole world that we could all get along."

Mr. Yates's lawyer, Ray Colon, is a member of the Cochran Firm, which was founded by the noted lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. He is handling the case without a fee. Yesterday, he said he was ready for trial, but Mr. Yates has not yet been indicted.

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, said the case was still under investigation. Mr. Colon said he "can't speculate about what their case is."

A reporter suggested that the case was about keeping a dangerous animal in a housing complex.

The reporter then asked Mr. Colon what his defense strategy might be.

"The Constitution is our defense," he said. "The onus is on the district attorney. We're ready to go to trial."

For all the fanfare of Mr. Yates's appearance, it was a routine court appointment that turned out to be much ado about nothing, since the case was adjourned without action until April 7.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

March 10th, 2004, 09:13 AM
March 10, 2004

A Barrel Full of Monkeys? Think About a Manhattan Apartment Full


When it was over yesterday, when the summons was written and the primates carted off, Orlando Lopez still had his cat, his dogs and his fish tank. It didn't matter. He also had a broken heart.

His monkeys were gone: Mandy, Michael, Marly, Chuckie, Belle, and even Lucille. Animal control officials had taken them away in cages. Mr. Lopez was distraught.

"They were my kids," he whispered from his doorway. "What if somebody came into your apartment and took the thing you loved and cared for most?"

The authorities said Mr. Lopez, 26, had violated city statutes by harboring illegal pets.

It was around noon, officials said, when the police received an anonymous tip from 34 Hillside Avenue in Washington Heights. They were directed to Mr. Lopez's fifth-floor apartment.

"Pretty much, the guy had six monkeys in his place," said John Reyes, an animal control officer. "We had to go in an get the monkeys out."

According to Officer Reyes, there were two marmosets, two capuchins and two squirrel monkeys. "Yeah, and he also had a tarantula in there," he said.

Animal lovers may recall a similar case in which a tiger turned up late last year in Harlem, but unlike that big cat, officials said, the monkeys did not present a threat.

Indeed, they were tiny, weighing between a half-pound and two pounds, Officer Reyes said.

"You'd be surprised what people who work in veterinary practice keep in their home," said a staff veterinarian at the Westside Veterinary Center on West 83rd Street, where Mr. Lopez works.

"He's been a good employee," said the veterinarian, who did not give his name. "His life was always about taking care of animals. We've had no complaints."

The only real complaints were from the neighbors, who reported hearing noises in the night.

"Every night, my sister says, 'What on earth is all that crying?' " said Minerva Ventura, 68. "We thought it was a baby, or maybe someone fighting. But a monkey? No." She shook her head. "We never thought that it was that."

Officer Reyes said the monkeys would be taken for safekeeping to an animal shelter on Long Island, and, in the way of these things, his role in the incident was being filmed by a camera crew from the BBC. It seemed that British television was doing a documentary, in part, on New York City's animal control officers.

Of course, much of the drama was provided by Mr. Lopez, who swore he would get his monkeys back. He held up a picture of himself with three of them.

In the picture, Mr. Lopez snuggled with them. He could not have looked more happy and content.

Oren Yaniv contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company