Ming of Harlem

Ming was a tiger that became notable when he was found living in an apartment in Harlem, New York City, United States, in October 2003. Ming, approximately three years old at the time of his capture, lived semi-openly with his owner, Antoine Yates, in a room of his five-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a large public housing complex in Harlem. Several other normal and exotic pets were found in Yates' apartment, including an alligator named Al in another bedroom.

Ming, Tiger of Harlem.jpg
Ming's resting place in Hartsdale, NY
SpeciesPanthera tigris
BreedSiberian/Bengal (P. t. altaica/tigris)[1]
BornFebruary 2000[2]
Racine, Minnesota, United States[3]
DiedFebruary 2019[4]
Noah's Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary, Berlin Center, Ohio[4]
Resting placeHartsdale Pet Cemetery, Westchester County, New York[4]
Known forResiding in an apartment building in Harlem, New York
  • BEARCAT Hollow (2000)
  • Antoine Yates (2000–03)
  • Noah's Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary (2003–2019)

Ming spent the rest of his life at Noah's Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary in Berlin Center, Ohio. Ming died from natural causes in February 2019 and was buried at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York .[4]


Early lifeEdit

In April 2000, Antoine Yates, a 31-year-old part-time taxicab driver and resident of Harlem, New York City, purchased Ming, an 8-week-old male SiberianBengal tiger hybrid, from the BEARCAT Hollow Animal Park in Racine, Minnesota.[2][5][3] Records indicated that BEARCAT Hollow had previously sold a lion cub to Yates, but he had found another home for the lion shortly after purchasing Ming.[3][2]


Ming's existence became known and reported in the media after Yates went to the Harlem Hospital Center emergency room on September 30, 2003 with bites on the arm and leg.[6][7] At the time of treatment, Yates claimed that his pet pit bull had bitten him; however, the medical personnel were suspicious, because the width of the bite marks suggested an animal with a much larger jaw. Later, Yates said he had been bitten while trying to keep Ming away from Shadow, a cat he had recently adopted.[8][9]

Yates checked out of the hospital on October 3, and the same day, following up on a tip, an officer of New York City Police Department was sent to his home address to investigate. Loud growling noises could be heard through the door of the apartment, causing the officer to avoid entering.[7] The NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit drilled holes through a neighbor's walls and used a camera on a pole to locate Ming. Martin Duffy, another police officer, was sent to the roof, from which he abseiled on a rope sling to view through the apartment's windows. Ming roared at Duffy, who then anaesthetized Ming by firing a rifle with a tranquilizer dart prepared by the city's Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Robert Cook.[10]

After being darted, Ming charged at the window from which Duffy had fired, breaking it, then retreated further into the apartment. Authorities waited several minutes for the sedative to take effect before an animal control team was sent into Yates' apartment. Dr. Cook used a catchpole and gave Ming another sedative injection to ensure he would remain asleep during transport. It took more than six men to carry Ming down via elevator to a waiting truck.[10] The team also discovered Al, a five-and-a-half-foot alligator that Yates had been raising in one of the other bedrooms.[8] Yates was later located at a hospital in Philadelphia and placed under guard.[7]

After Ming was discovered in Yates' apartment in October 2003, questioning of the neighbors determined that the existence of the tiger was widely known for at least three years, but as a sort of urban legend.[7] One fact that turned up was that Yates regularly bought large quantities of raw chicken at the local supermarket, and it was a standing joke in the building that he could eat so much chicken every day. By 2003, Yates was feeding Ming 20 pounds (9 kg) of chicken, livers, and bones per day.[10] In addition, Yates had taken roommates, who were unaware at first of the animals in the home.[11] According to the New York Daily News,

A woman who shared a Harlem apartment with a 425-pound tiger said yesterday she was terrified at first—but soon got used to living with the man-eater down the hall. Caroline Domingo told the Daily News she couldn't believe her eyes when she spotted the big cat roaming free in the apartment where she and her husband rented a room from tiger-owner Antoine Yates. [...] But eventually, she said, "We all became family."[11]

Legal actionsEdit

Yates was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment and the possession of a wild animal.[12] Later, his mother was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, since she had been babysitting children in the apartment. As part of a plea agreement to reduce charges against his mother, Yates pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, and eventually served a five-month prison term with five years' probation.[13][14] He was released after serving three months, and subsequently he sued New York City for the loss of his pets (including a rabbit) and for $7,000 cash which he claimed had also been in the apartment.[15] A judge dismissed the case, calling him full of "chutzpah".[16]

Life after New YorkEdit

Authorities decided to move the seized animals to more appropriate housing: Ming was sent to Noah's Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary in Berlin Center, Ohio, while Al was given a new home in Indiana.[17][13]

Around 2010, Yates lived in Pahrump, Nevada near Las Vegas with 22 big cats, including four tigers, having redubbed himself "Antoine Tigermann Yates".[2] He established the Reach Out And Respond (ROAR) Foundation in 2011.[18] A 2018 article in the New York Post cast doubt on Yates's veracity, noting that a licensed tiger owner in Pahrump stated that Yates had never lived in Nevada.[10]

In mediaEdit

In October 2010, the story of Yates and Ming was dramatized on the Animal Planet show Fatal Attractions. The episode was titled "A Tiger Loose in Harlem". A mix of re-creation and documented footage was used, complete with commentary by Yates, his family and police.[9]

Ming is mentioned in the documentary film, The Tiger Next Door.

Ming of Harlem: Twenty-One Storeys in the Air was screened at the New York Film Festival on October 3, 2014.[19]

A photo of Ming was used by New York City rap group Armand Hammer for the cover of their 2020 album Shrines.



  1. ^ "Tiger Captured in New York Apartment; Owner To Face Fines". Jet. 104 (18): 36–38. 27 October 2003. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Somaiya, Ravi (28 July 2010). "The trouble with tigers". Newsweek. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Laurence, Charles (12 October 2003). "Police probe couple who sold 400lb tiger found in Harlem flat". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Kilgannon, Corey (2 October 2019). "Ming, the Bengal Tiger Raised in a Harlem Apartment, Has Died". The New York Times. p. A26. Retrieved 2 October 2019. Ming’s cremated remains received a homecoming of sorts, as reported Monday in The New York Post. The remains were interred in April at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, about 17 miles north of the Harlem apartment where Ming lived a pent-up childhood.
  5. ^ Corey Kilgannon (2020-04-18). "A 425-Pound Tiger Living in a Harlem Apartment? Yes, It Happened: Before "Tiger King," there was New York's infamous Tiger Man". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-04-19. Ming quickly went from bottle feeding to consuming 20 pounds of chicken thighs a day, which Mr. Yates would heft home each morning from a local supermarket. And in less than three years, the Siberian-Bengal mix grew into a 425-pound behemoth.
  6. ^ Martha T. Moore (2003-10-09). "Tiger in Harlem among thousands of kept wild 'pets'". USA Today.
  7. ^ a b c d Polgreen, Lydia; George, Jason (October 6, 2003). "From a Cub to a Menace, and Now a Mystery". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Saulny, Susan (October 8, 2003). "A Tiger's Keeper Says He Misses His 'Friend'". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "10 Questions with Antoine Yates". animalplanet.com. Animal Planet. 15 May 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Fonrouge, Gabrielle; Italiano, Laura (November 4, 2018). "That time someone had a pet tiger in Harlem". New York Post. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  11. ^ a b Colangelo, Lisa L.; Woodberry Jr., Warren; Goldiner, Dave (6 October 2003). "She Shared Apt. with Tiger, Gator: It Was a Room with a Zoo". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Saulny, Susan (December 19, 2003). "From Tiger Man to Sharp-Dressed Man for His Day in Court". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  13. ^ a b Tavernise, Sabrina (October 8, 2004). "Man Who Kept Tiger in Apartment Gets 5-Month Jail Term". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  14. ^ Ramírez, Eddy; Cave, Damien (July 21, 2004). "Tiger's Former Owner Reaches Plea Agreement". The New York Times. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  15. ^ Ortega, Ralph R. (December 24, 2004). "Tiger Guy Out, Eyes Reunion". New York Daily News. New York, New York. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  16. ^ Yates v. N.Y.C., 04 Civ. 9928 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) ("The word chutzpah, despite not debuting in a reported judicial opinion until 1972, is now vastly overused in the legal literature. Yet in a case such as this ... it is a most appropriate term to use.").
  17. ^ "Rescued Animals". Noah's Lost Ark. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  18. ^ "EWCN: Team ROAR". Eden World Conservation Network. 2013. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Projections Program 2". filmlinc.com. Film Society Lincoln Center. Retrieved October 8, 2014.

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