“Ming” the Bengal Tiger Once Raised in a Harlem Apartment Has Passed
The Bengal Tiger Lived in a Rent Controlled Apartment for 3-Years Until Being Discovered and Becoming a Front-Page News Story
A Bengal tiger cub named Ming had once lived for three years in a public-housing project as his owner’s “only friend,” and became front-page news when he was discovered nearly 16 years ago.
Ming’s owner, Antoine Yates, had been given little notice by his neighbors when he first brought home the little, exotic pet tiger to his Harlem housing project. Ming was, according to Mr. Yates, his best friend. Some of his neighbors recall first seeing the cute, little tiger cub when Yates brought him home, but feared that someday, Ming would grow up to be a large animal. Indeed, the little tiger cub grew into a 400-pound beast mostly during the three years it spent in Apartment 5-E of the Drew Hamilton Houses under the care of Mr. Yates, who was at that time, a cabdriver then in his mid-30s.
Mr. Yates often dreamed about opening an animal sanctuary. He built a sand pit in Ming’s room and fed him 20 pounds of chicken parts per day. Ming’s surroundings were certainly not glamorous – an apartment in a housing project where his residency mostly remained an open secret among neighbors who could hear an occasional roar or whimpering or smell the scent of urine.
Ming lived mostly undisturbed with Mr. Yates, at least until one day the police, and then the world, learned about the Bengal tiger that was living in the high-rise apartment. For harboring the 400-pound Ming in his apartment, Mr. Yates was arrested and served a brief time in jail while Ming was relocated to an Ohio sanctuary where he lived until his death from natural causes this past February.
Ming was never detected by the City’s housing authority officials, nor was Al, an alligator Mr. Yates brought home as a hatchling and raised to nearly six feet in a large, fiberglass tank along with Ming (in separate bedrooms, of course). If that were not enough, Mr. Yates also had a pet cat, but when Ming tried to pounce on the cat, Mr. Yates jumped between them and was gashed by Ming’s fangs. At a nearby emergency room, Yates had claimed that his wound was inflicted by a pit bull. But Yates’ story to emergency room personnel apparently raised suspicions and eventually led to contacting the police who eventually discovered Mr. Yates’ unofficial animal sanctuary.
Police officers sent to the apartment heard growling inside and used a remote camera to locate Ming. In order to subdue Ming, a police officer had to rappel down from the rooftop of the tall building to the apartment window and used a tranquilizer gun to subdue Ming, who charged ferociously at the window. It took more than six men to carry the 3-year-old tiger out. Not long afterwards, the story of Ming became front-page, national news. Al, the alligator was also removed from the apartment at that time.
Mr. Yates became known as Tiger Man, and told reporters that Ming was “like my brother, my best friend, my only friend, really.” Both Ming and Al were sent to sanctuaries in different states. Mr. Yates wound up pleading guilty to reckless endangerment, and he served three months on New York’s Rikers Island. He now lives with his mother, Martha Yates, in a suburb of Philadelphia, who in her statement to the press noted that she never had a problem with her son’s pets.
Ming now rests in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in New York State, which until Ming’s interment, housed only pet dogs and domestic cats. R.I.P. Ming.