“The Real Tarzann,” a popular wildlife advocate with millions of Instagram followers, was arrested Friday night after punching one of the state’s most well-known python hunters during a squabble over social media, police said.
Though it wasn’t exactly clear Monday what specifically the two men were fighting about, Michael Holston, 25, who often posts pictures of himself cuddling up to large animals from all over the world, was charged with burglary with assault and battery, felony battery and misdemeanor battery.
At his initial hearing Saturday morning, Miami-Dade County Judge Linda Diaz denied Holston bond, despite pleas from his mother who claimed the man her son attacked came with weapons. Holston rose to fame online — the social media influencer has roughly 5.8 million Instagram followers and 510,000 YouTube subscribers. He had 41,600 Twitter followers, but his account was suspended as of Saturday afternoon.
“Jason came to the house with a sawed-off shotgun and a pistol in the car,” a woman who told the judge she was Holston’s mother said. “I do not understand how my son can have a burglary charge on a residence where we’ve been living for the past seven months.”
The Jason the woman was describing is Jason Leon, a well-publicized python hunter who does work for a controversial South Miami-Dade wildlife group called the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, run by a former cocaine trafficker who now educates the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity.
According to Holston’s arrest report, police were called to a home at 6000 SW 118th Ave., at 5 p.m. Friday by Leon, who had escaped Holston’s wrath long enough to get into his vehicle and call police. A witness told police that Leon and some friends received permission to remove some animals from the property and were doing that when Holston walked by and began picking a fight.
Holston then, according to the witness, punched Leon in the face and the body. When his friend Hector Zaleya tried to intervene, the witness told police Holston struck him too, hard enough in the face to chip the man’s tooth. After Leon escaped to his car, Holston reportedly became so enraged that he got into the vehicle from the passenger side and kept punching him.
The Zoological Wildlife Foundation said they were “very surprised at how Holston behaved,” the day he was arrested.
The home in Horse Country where Holston claims to live just west of the Florida Turnpike was owned at one point by Jungle Island owner Bern Levine. Property records show Levine sold it in 2004. The records show the property is now owned by Bhagavan Antle, a controversial wildlife advocate from Myrtle Beach, S.C., who was the subject of a Rolling Stone magazine article in 2015. Neither Antle nor Levine could be reached Monday afternoon.
At some point, it seems, Leon and Holston were friends. Leon posted a picture on a GoFundMe page in 2017 of himself standing next to Holston, who had a large python wrapped around his body. Leon was trying to raise money to capture pythons.
As for Holston, he came to fame posting videos that show wildlife adventures across the world, with titles ranging from “FEEDING GIRAFFES FROM MY BEDROOM !!!” to “WALKING THE WORLD’S LARGEST CAT.” On Instagram, he posts photos of himself with lions, snakes, giant squid, frogs and more.