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 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.
Ming’s resting place in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, Hartsdale NY.
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 Siberian–Bengal tiger hybrid, from the BEARCAT Hollow Animal Park in Racine, Minnesota. 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. Yates lived with the animals in Apartment 5E of the Drew-Hamilton Houses, a public housing complex; for five years, Yates left the apartment only once a day for an hour to purchase food.
In an interview published in 2020, Yates clarified that he first had purchased Jabba, a lion cub which passed away at a young age, and then he purchased Ming and Nemo, another lion cub, as a pair. Nemo was included with the sale because he was ill and unlikely to live long. At the time he acquired Ming, Yates already owned an alligator named Al, which he had purchased legally in New Jersey.
Ming’s existence became known and reported in the media after Yates was taken to the Harlem Hospital Center emergency room on September 30, 2003 with bites on the arm and leg. 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. That day was the first time Ming had met Shadow; according to Yates, after Ming began chasing Shadow, Yates jumped in front of Ming, who bit and clawed Yates multiple times as he wrestled with the tiger. After Ming finally closed his jaws on Yates’s knee, Yates recalled “That had me going through flashes of life. I was like, ‘Oh my god, guess this is where I die at.'” Yates declined to call it an attack, saying it was a natural reaction of Ming’s frustration: “I’m walking around. I’m still alive. I haven’t lost a limb. You couldn’t even tell I got bit by a tiger, unless I told you and showed you the mark.”
On Thursday, October 2, the police received an anonymous tip that “there was a large wild animal that was biting people”; the same anonymous person followed up the next day by providing the animal’s location, at Yates’s apartment. Yates checked out of the hospital that same day, and following up on the tips, an officer of New York City Police Department was sent to his home address to investigate on October 3. Loud growling noises could be heard through the door of the apartment and the officer declined to enter. 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 Dr. Robert Cook, then the Chief Veterinarian of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the city’s zoos.
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. The team also discovered Al, a five-and-a-half-foot alligator that Yates had been raising in one of the other bedrooms. Yates was later located at a hospital in Philadelphia and placed under guard.
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. Yates regularly bought large quantities of raw chicken at the local supermarket, and one standing joke in the building was 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. The downstairs neighbor was aware that Yates owned many animals, in contradiction to Housing Authority rules, and her daughter had once seen Ming. The neighbor added it was not a problem until the summer of 2003, when she opened her windows for the first time that year and found her windowsills soaked with urine accompanied by a heavy animal odor. In addition, Yates had taken roommates, who were unaware at first of the animals in the home. 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.”
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. For approximately a decade, human visitors were barred from visiting Ming in Ohio, but the sanctuary later changed their policy in the interest of enrichment. Ming lived in Ohio until he died on February 4, 2019, of kidney and heart failure; his remains were cremated and interred at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York on April 20. The cemetery donated the site and mausoleum. According to the director of Noah’s Lost Ark, “[Ming] lived a really good life here. He was able to run and play on the grounds. He had tiger friends. He had a swimming pool. He was able to experience the elements.”