'Safari Joe' arrested, accused of child sex abuse

MAYES COUNTY, Okla. - A man well known to Green Country has been accused of sexually abusing two minors.

Joe Estes, known as "Safari Joe", turned himself in to the Mayes County Sheriff's Office Thursday afternoon after being charged with one count of rape by instrumentation, two counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16 and two counts of lewd molestation.

Authorities say the rape charge is related to an incident that happened in 2005 with a 10- or 11-year-old child. The other charges come from additional incidents occurring between 2005 and 2007.

"We're going forward with these charges but we're still continuing to investigate," said Mayes County Chief Prosecutor Marny Hill.

Estes owns Safari Joe's, an animal sanctuary located north of Adair. The sanctuary takes in "various exotic and local abused, neglected and abandoned animals, like the big cats," according to its website.

Estes and volunteers also make appearances at schools and health care facilities in the area.

"We have no information, no allegations that anything of this nature was occurring during those school visits," said Hill.

Hill said the abuse took place on or near the wildlife sanctuary.

Bond was set at $25,000.  Estes has since bailed out.

An employee at the sanctuary told 2News Estes wasn't available for comment and said she hopes the public will withhold its judgment until the investigation is complete.

A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Sept. 27.

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