'Safari Joe' arrested on rape, molestation charges
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, August 03, 2012
8/03/12 at 7:38 AM
PRYOR - An exotic animal wrangler surrendered Thursday on rape and molestation charges, Mayes County Sheriff Frank Cantey said.
Joe Matthew Estes, 45, of Adair, the operator of Safari Joe's Exotic Wildlife Rescue, faces one count of rape by instrumentation and two counts each of lewd molestation and committing lewd or indecent acts with a child younger than 16, records show.
The acts are alleged to have occurred at or near Estes' wildlife sanctuary between May 1, 2005, and May 30, 2007, said Marny Hill, Mayes County's chief prosecutor.
The allegations were reported to authorities this year.
Estes pleaded not guilty Thursday before Mayes County Special Judge Rebecca Gore. He is due back in court Sept. 27, Hill said. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said Estes posted $25,000 bond and was released.
The District Attorney's Office conducted the investigation because an employee of the Sheriff's Office is friends with one of the accusers, Cantey said.
Estes, who has spent more than 15 years rescuing and rehabilitating exotic wildlife, operates a 200-acre sanctuary three miles north of Adair, according to his website. He commonly exhibits animals at schools.
"We have no information at this time that he engaged in any of these activities while on school visits," Hill said.
The telephone number listed on the sanctuary's website is disconnected.
Hill said more victims could exist. Anyone with information about the allegations is urged to call Gary Stansill, chief investigator for the Mayes County District Attorney's Office, at 918-341-3164.
Original Print Headline: Animal park operator faces sex charges
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Joe Matthew Estes: The exotic animal wrangler has been charged with five counts of sex crimes that allegedly took place on or near his wildlife sanctuary