Behind an electronic gate that warns “Trespassers will be Eaten,” Sipek lives in a carefully orchestrated warren of cage systems, runs, and gates. Even his living room is tiger-proofed for the times he lets “his boys” in the house with him. Intimidating and off-putting to the outsider, Sipek calls it home and wouldn’t trade it for the world. “When I’m sleeping with my boys, there is a tranquility that surrounds me that I can’t describe,” says Sipek.
After a lifetime around the big cats Sipek says he and -his boys” communicate silently, almost telepathically. “They think I’m their daddy. I know what they are thinking and they know what I’m thinking.”
Sipek’s relationship with the big cats began nearly forty years ago on a 1969 trip to Africa, when he was twenty-seven years old. Following the sound of a desperate scream, he discovered a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of a lion cub. Acting on instinct, he grabbed the nearest branch and began hitting the snake to make it let go. The snake was unwilling to give up its meal and Sipek was forced to grab hold of the cub’s back feet and haul him free. “He was so grateful,” Sipek remembers, “I smuggled him back to Miami on a cargo plane in my bag.”
A few years later, Sipek was making movies playing Tarzan when Samson, the erstwhile cub, had the chance to return the favor. In a movie stunt gone wrong, Sipek was trapped-staked down to the groundwhen a gas can exploded, blowing up the set. Literally burning alive, the only rescue for Sipek came from Samson, who ripped him free of his bindings and pulled him to safety. His life changed in that moment. He knew then that a higher power had given him a path-that he was on this earth for the animals.
In close to forty years he has spent more than $7 million on the welfare of the big cats and other animals. His love and devotion have cost him money, jobs, relationships, and other vestiges that we attribute to “normal” life: “I have given up much, but I have no regrets,” says Sipek. “I can’t change, I function by feelings, not by choice, and I love the animals more.”
Despite everything he has given up, Sipek says the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. He considers his time with the cats “a gift that God himself couldn’t give. The love they give me is more powerful than the mighty sun. It can make a man greater than himself. They can look into a human heart and forgive…”
Heidi is a writer yoga instructor, and acupuncturist living and workinng in South Florida. Whether she is conducting group or private lessons, or treating patients with traditional Chinese medicine, ha knowledge and careful attention to individual needs has earned acclaim and respect from clients throughout the area. For more information visit www.DancingDragonYoga.com
Vol 27 Issue 3 Page 16