By Jo Berry.
It’s not only eccentric Americans like Joe Exotic (featured in the hit Netflix series Tiger King) who own lions and tigers – there are big cat owners much closer to home, as Ross Kemp reveals in his latest documentary Britain’s Tiger Kings: On The Trail With Ross Kemp.
Beginning on ITV on Tuesday, 30th March at 9pm, the two-part series has Ross meeting people in Britain who keep dangerous wild animals as pets, and asking them why they would want to own such creatures – and whether it is in the animals’ best interests to do so.
Here’s a guide to the big cat owners Ross Kemp meets in the first episode.
Reece Oliver keeps two lions in his back garden – which doesn’t exactly please his neighbours in the Nottinghamshire village where he lives, especially after one of the big cats attacked a stable hand working there in August last year. The cats, named Rocky and Rora, are African lion cubs that Reece rescued from a Czech Republic circus in February 2019, and apparently join a puma and two monkeys that Reece and his family also own.
Andrew and Tracey Riddel
In Lincolnshire, Andrew and Tracey have a collection of 200 wild animals that includes monkeys, lions, emus, wild cats and even bears. The couple began their collection back in 2013, after Andrew gave Tracey a female zebra (named Marty after the character in the animated movie Madagascar) for her birthday. They have renamed their home Wolds Wildlife Park, and their menagerie of creatures can now be visited by the public (COVID restrictions allowing).
Former circus trainer Jim Clubb now trains animals for film and TV work, and keeps zebras, wolves, hyenas and various big cats including Royal Bengal tigers at the private Heythrop Zoo in Oxfordshire. The tigers have appeared in movies including Prince Of Persia and Clash Of The Titans, but there has been much controversy and concern in recent years surrounding how Jim’s company, Amazing Animals, treats the animals in their care.
Ross Kemp also travels to Munich to meet Martin, an English circus trainer who has the largest collection of big cats on the continent. The son of an animal trainer, Martin grew up in the circus before leaving to go to boarding school. He then returned to the family business after his A Levels, and trained to work with big cats before winning various awards as a lion trainer. His collection of animals at the Circus Krone in Munich includes four lions, a white lion and a rhinoceros.
Britain’s Tiger Kings – On the Trail with Ross Kemp airs on Tuesday 30th March at 9pm on ITV.
You can watch the original Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness on Netflix. To find out what else is on tonight, check out our TV Guide.