Two tigers and a leopard were removed from the personal property of Steve Sipek, a former actor who appeared in Tarzan movies. They were knock-offs of the original and it was in one of them Sipek was reportedly saved by a tiger during filming when a fire erupted and the big cat removed restraints so he could escape.
It was from this incident Sipek vowed to pay back the kindness by taking care of big cats. Only now several have been taken away over concerns they might escape the property where they were being held. Loxahatchee is where Mr. Sipek’s home is, and there are other residences not far away.
“Mr. Sipek and Ms. Boynes were in violation of federal and state laws that are in place to keep both people and animals safe and healthy. The FWC removed the animals to protect public safety and to place them in a licensed, healthy and safe facility,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, leader of the FWC’s Captive Wildlife and Investigations Section. (Source: Palm Beach Post)
In 2004 a six hundred pound tiger escaped from his property resulting in a twenty-six hour search and the death of the tiger. Just two years ago ABC News did a feature story on Sipek and the animal compound he calls home. He even raised his son from infancy with grown tigers and lions around them.
Owning big cats to help them is not necessary, and often exotic animal owners don’t have any formal training in how to interact with them. On the contrary, keeping them seems to be based upon a strong, or very strong emotional attachment.
There are big cat sanctuaries such as Serenity Springs Wildlife Center where they are taken care of, and not treated as pets living in areas where there are many people. The big cats at these sanctuaries often come from individuals who learn they are incapable of caring for them, or abandon the responsibility.
Exotic animal ownership laws vary by state, but hopefully state legislatures will gradually begin to phase the practice out.
Image Credit: Dick Mudde, Public Domain
The tiger pictured above is not one of the actual tigers mentioned in the story.