Footage reveals the cramped conditions of big cats kept in gardens by 'Britain's Tiger Kings'


A new documentary featuring Ross Kemp on the trail of Britain’s very own ‘Tiger Kings’ has revealed the cramped conditions of big cats kept in private gardens – as one owner even admits his place is too small for his two lions.  

In the first episode of Britain’s Tiger Kings – On The Trail With Ross Kemp, which airs on ITV tonight at 9pm, the presenter, 56, meets with Reece Oliver, who legally keeps two lions in his garden – despite admitting his land isn’t big enough for them.

Ross discovers that the big cats, named Rocky and Rora, who are African lion cubs that Reece rescued from a Czech Republic circus in February 2019, have caused fierce division in the Nottinghamshire village where they are kept, with some neighbours expressing concern about the well-being of the animals.

The programme was announced back in February, with ITV said to be hoping to cash in on the success of Netflix’s hit true crime documentary Tiger King, which was about zookeeper and convicted criminal Joe Exotic. 

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A new documentary featuring Ross Kemp (pictured) on the trail of Britain's very own 'Tiger Kings' has revealed the cramped conditions of big cats kept in private gardens - as one owner even admits his place is too small for his two lions

A new documentary featuring Ross Kemp (pictured) on the trail of Britain’s very own ‘Tiger Kings’ has revealed the cramped conditions of big cats kept in private gardens – as one owner even admits his place is too small for his two lions

In the first episode of Britain's Tiger Kings - On The Trail With Ross Kemp, which airs on ITV tonight at 9pm, the presenter, 56, meets with Reece Oliver, who keeps two lions (pictured is one of them) in his back garden - despite admitting his plot of land isn't big enough for them

In the first episode of Britain’s Tiger Kings – On The Trail With Ross Kemp, which airs on ITV tonight at 9pm, the presenter, 56, meets with Reece Oliver, who keeps two lions (pictured is one of them) in his back garden – despite admitting his plot of land isn’t big enough for them

Ross discovers that the big cats, named Rocky and Rora (pictured in the garden), who are African lion cubs that Reece rescued from a Czech Republic circus in February 2019, have caused fierce division in the Nottinghamshire village where they are kept, with some neighbours expressing concern about the well-being of the animals

Ross discovers that the big cats, named Rocky and Rora (pictured in the garden), who are African lion cubs that Reece rescued from a Czech Republic circus in February 2019, have caused fierce division in the Nottinghamshire village where they are kept, with some neighbours expressing concern about the well-being of the animals

It’s understood there are around 4,000 wild animals including lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles and giant snakes in private hands across the country. 

In the first show of the two-part series, filmed in line with Covid rules, Ross meets Reece Oliver, who keeps two lions in his back garden. 

When Ross asks him if he thinks his plot of land is big enough compared to sanctuaries, the owner admits it is not and he is putting a planning application in to make the area bigger.

‘At the end of the day, if you take those lions away from me, or from the setting that they know, it’s gonna be stressful for them,’ he said.

‘It’s not the best for the animals. They’re happy here and they love me. When I’m not there, they kind of miss me and then when I’m there, they’re like puppy dogs.’

In the first show of the two-part series, filmed in line with Covid rules, Ross meets Reece Oliver (pictured), who keeps two lions in his back garden

In the first show of the two-part series, filmed in line with Covid rules, Ross meets Reece Oliver (pictured), who keeps two lions in his back garden

When Ross (pictured left) asks Reece (pictured right) if he thinks his plot of land is big enough compared to sanctuaries, the owner admits it is not and he is putting a planning application in to make the area bigger

When Ross (pictured left) asks Reece (pictured right) if he thinks his plot of land is big enough compared to sanctuaries, the owner admits it is not and he is putting a planning application in to make the area bigger

Last summer Reece (pictured) hit headlines when he applied for planning permission for a 400 metres squared enclosure behind his stables, which was to be used for the 30-year-old’s show-jumping horses

Last summer Reece (pictured) hit headlines when he applied for planning permission for a 400 metres squared enclosure behind his stables, which was to be used for the 30-year-old’s show-jumping horses 

With animal rights groups and some of his neighbours in opposition to his wild animal collection, Ross asks what might have motivated businessman and international show-jumper Reece’s obsession.

Is it legal to keep wild animals in the UK?

Wildlife lovers can keep exotic animals as pets in the UK, as long as they obtain the correct licence.

Dangerous wild animals (DWA) licences are granted by councils to allow people to keep undomesticated animals as pets, providing they have the requisite safety measures at their home and pay a small fee.

Under, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 all big cats including the bobcat, caracal, cheetah, jaguar, leopard, lion, lynx, puma and tiger, require a DWA licence from the local council.

But DWA licences are also issued to properties where animals may be receiving care after being rescued, or living at small private farms, where people keep wild beasts for breeding purposes. 

Tigers, wolves and deadly venomous snakes are among thousands of dangerous animals being kept on private properties across the UK, figures previously revealed. 

Reece replies: ‘I like to take risks. I’m a bit unique, you know, I always want something different and I like to be different. And I don’t really – I’ve gone past the point in my life where I care so much about what people think.’ 

Last summer Reece hit headlines when he applied for planning permission for a 400 metres squared enclosure behind his stables, which was to be used for the 30-year-old’s show-jumping horses.

Neighbours became rattled when they discovered it in fact housed a puma, called Rogue, and that two lion cubs, Rocky and Rora, would be added.

Some 14 neighbours objected that the enclosure was too close to the adjoining bridleway, and having so many predators less than 45 metres from the nearest house would be ‘unsafe’.

Even so, Reece won the battle to keep his enclosure, with the 3.85 metre-high perimeter fence.

Reece lives in a barn conversion with his mother Karen, who owns a string of children’s nurseries, his dad Gary, a heating engineer, girlfriend Annie, his grandparents — and two squirrel monkeys, called Ronnie and Reggie.

He rescued the four-year-old puma ‘from the illegal pet trade’. And within two years, Rocky and Rora will be twice the puma’s size, with male Rocky weighing up to 30st. 

Meanwhile, in Oxfordshire Ross meets former circus trainer Jim Clubb who now trains animals for television programmes, films and adverts, and keeps tigers among his menagerie. 

Asked if he was scared about going in the cage with one of his beloved Royal Bengals, he says: ‘I’m always scared. 

‘If you think these animals can’t harm you, then that’s the wrong attitude. Remember a tiger can kill you with just one bite or a blow of his paw.’

Ross also travels to Munich, where he unwittingly ends up in a cage with a lion when he meets Martin Lacey, an English circus trainer with the largest collection of big cats on the continent.

The presenter says: ‘There will be lots of people in Britain that will say, “Well, that’s totally wrong, we love animals, that’s why we don’t want to see them in circuses or in zoos or in cages.”‘

Meanwhile, in Oxfordshire Ross meets former circus trainer Jim Clubb who now trains animals for television programmes, films and adverts, and keeps tigers (pictured) among his menagerie

 Meanwhile, in Oxfordshire Ross meets former circus trainer Jim Clubb who now trains animals for television programmes, films and adverts, and keeps tigers (pictured) among his menagerie

But Martin replies: ‘People don’t understand about animals. In England, it’s a land of animal lovers but sadly don’t understand so much about animals. 

‘The animals have everything what they need. You can see yourself how good-looking all the animals are, we really take care of our animals, and maybe they are just brainwashed into thinking that we don’t take care of our animals… 

‘But everybody that knows us—all my friends from England that come over with their families, they think it’s fantastic and they don’t have it in England any more.’

Tiger King became a worldwide sensation on Netflix as it chronicled the lives of big cat owners Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and Doc Antle.

Exotic has served roughly two years of a 22-year sentence after he was convicted on 17 federal charges in 2019 for animal abuse and an attempted murder-for-hire plot on Baskin.

The programme was announced back in February, with ITV said to be hoping to cash in on the success of Netflix 's hit true crime documentary Tiger King, which was about zookeeper and convicted criminal Joe Exotic (pictured)

The programme was announced back in February, with ITV said to be hoping to cash in on the success of Netflix ‘s hit true crime documentary Tiger King, which was about zookeeper and convicted criminal Joe Exotic (pictured) 

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