Friday, March 2, 2012

Former Tarzan Actor Arrested for Keeping Big Cats as Pets

Former Tarzan Steve Sipek with his tiger in Loxahatchee in 1985.

Tarzan is renowned in literature as the lord of the jungle. Much of his life was spent in a remote, hostile environment surrounded by wild and untameable inhabitants he calls his friends. His adventures of protecting his animal brethren from heartless poachers and other such villains looking to devastate the jungles and its inhabitants have fascinated the minds of readers and viewers for generations. So why would anyone playing the jungle hero would want to keep wild animals right in America's own backyard? This was especially the case of former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek, stage name Steve Hawkes, who was arrested recently for keeping two tigers and a panther, which were removed from his five-acre compound in Loxahatchee, Florida. In addition to that, he was taken into custody for not having federal permit to keep his animals and there were violations concerning the fencing and caging. According to officials, the animals were not being fed a proper diet, they had even bit people several times and had escaped in the past.
Steve Sipek alias Steve Hawkes as Tarzan in one of his movies King of the Jungle.

In December 1996, a puma escaped from Mr. Sipek's property by leaping over a perimeter fence. In 2002 and 2010, two of his acquaintances were bitten but did not press charges. However, none of these incidents caught the eyes of authorities than the escape of his 600-pound Bengal tiger named Bobo in 2004. The animal wandered about in the Loxahatchee community before being shot to death by a Fish and Wildlife officer. Since that incident, Mr. Sipek had been battling authorities to keep big cats. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson stated that they had been working with him to get him and his partner, Melanie Boynes, into compliance. Since the changes in state rules in keeping Class I wildlife made in 2004, Mr. Sipek was barred from keeping new exotic cats as pets. However, he saw a loophole in the law by applying for a state commercial license for two tiger cubs. According to the license, it required him to meet a certain criteria which includes an advertising campaign and "open for business" hours. Unfortunately for him, federal authorities declined to issue him a permit, saying that he had failed to meet the standards of the Animal Welfare Act.
Steve Sipek with one of the tiger cubs he acquired after his Bengal tiger Bobo was killed.

My opinion about this article is that it should be considered a wake-up call to people all over the U.S and in other parts of the world that owning big cats is extremely dangerous and life-threatening. Tarzan has long been depicted as a friend of wild animals, where he helps them and the animals help him including dangerous ones. However, Tarzan is a fictitious character and the kind of relationship he has with his animal friends is something meant mainly to entertain the audiences. In reality, wild animals are unpredictable regardless of how they look or what size they are. Mr. Sipek had once made a vow in the past to protect big cats he had shared the screen with. This was a result when he was saved by a lion during a stunt, in which the set caught on fire. However, he did so by keeping the animals on his property. Like him, there are several ordinary people in the world who see themselves as so-called "animal heroes" by keeping wild animals in their property and fail to meet the standards of caring for them. This, in turn, results in either the animals turning against their "owners" or escaping from the property and posing as a threat to general public. In addition to that, the animals are also kept in uncomfortable conditions affecting their health making them prone to disease and other maladies. The only safest way to help wild animals in need is to reach out to the community, and educate on the importance of such animals in our world. In addition to that, collaborating with major organizations like the World Wildlife Fund also helps. But keeping wild animals in our own residential community is not an option.

Steve Sipek giving a bowl of milk to a lion at his home.

View article here

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