South Florida's 'Tarzan,' Steve Sipek, dead at 77

Croatian-born actor made headlines after pet tiger escaped, shot dead in 2004

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor
AP Photo/Rick Silva

"They killed my Bobo," Steve Sipek told reporters July 13, 2004, in Loxahatchee, Florida, after his escaped Bengal tiger was shot to death by a state wildlife officer.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - "Tarzan" actor Steve Sipek, who made national headlines after his pet tiger escaped and was shot dead by a state wildlife officer in 2004, has died. He was 77.

Sipek died Saturday in Florida, where the Croatian-born actor spent the latter years of his life after opening an animal sanctuary in rural Loxahatchee.

He made national headlines 15 years ago when his pet Bengal tiger, Bobo, escaped from the compound and was shot to death by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer after a two-day search.

"They murdered my Bobo," a tearful Sipek, his shirt smeared with blood, told reporters in July 2004.

Sipek again made headlines in 2012 after two tigers and a leopard were seized from his home. He was arrested for failing to have proper licensing.

A judge later ruled that Sipek's animals could be transferred to a facility in Okeechobee.

Sipek, whose screen name was Steve Hawkes, played Tarzan in a 1969 Spanish-language film version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs character. He also starred in its 1972 sequel, suffering burns to more than 90% of his body during filming.

A cause of death wasn't revealed.

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