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Tigers, leopard removed from home of former Tarzan actor

This news story was published on February 28, 2012.
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By Angel Streeter, Sun Sentinel –

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has removed three big cats from the Florida home of Steve Sipek, an actor who once played Tarzan.

Carli Segelson, a commission spokeswoman, said the agency had a warrant to seize two tigers and a leopard because Sipek was in violation of federal and state laws.

He did not have a federal permit to keep the animals, she said. There were violations concerning the fencing and caging of the animals. And there wasn’t consistent commercial activity at Sipek’s property, a violation of state law.

Authorities also said the animals weren’t being fed a proper diet, and there had been multiple bites and escapes.

FWC officers, who inspect properties that have captive wildlife twice a year, had been working with Sipek over some time to get him and his partner, Melanie Boynes, into compliance.

But they repeatedly failed to correct the violations at the Loxahatchee compound, authorities said.

It got to the “point that we felt it was a safety hazard to the public but also there were concerns about the well being of the animals,” Segelson said.

Sipek was arrested for having the animals without a federal permit and for keeping them as pets. Florida law says such wildlife can’t be kept as pets and must be used for commercial purposes such as being put on display.

Sipek faces second-degree misdemeanor charges.

The FWC is taking the big cats to another captive wildlife facility, but because of the open investigation would not disclose the location.

Sipek will have a chance to appeal the decision and to get the cats back, Segelson said.

The Croatian-born Sipek, who starred as Tarzan in a foreign remake of the film in 1970, garnered international attention in 2004 when a 600-pound Bengal tiger he owned, Bobo, escaped from his Florida compound and into the rural residential community of the Groves.

The tiger was later shot by Fish and Wildlife officials, but soon after, Sipek received another commercial license from the state for two tiger cubs. It’s not clear if those were the same cats that were removed.

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