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Britain's Tiger Kings - On The Trail With Ross Kemp

  • Episode:

    2 of 2

  • Transmission (TX):

    Tue 06 Apr 2021

  • TX Confirmed

    Yes

  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 14 2021 : Sat 03 Apr - Fri 09 Apr

  • Channel:

    ITV

  • Published:

    Wed 31 Mar 2021

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 30 March 2021.

Britain's Tiger Kings - On The Trail With Ross Kemp

Series overview

This new two-part documentary series features Ross Kemp on the trail of Britain's very own tiger and lion kings - those who keep dangerous wild animals.

The new series features the award-winning documentary maker as reporter, going on a journey to discover why anyone would want to keep a 250kg feline, and asking whether it is in the best interests of the animal to do so.

It's understood there are about 4,000 animals including lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles and giant snakes in private hands in the country.

Episode 2

In the second programme, filmed in line with Covid rules, Ross travels to Derby to meet  56-year-old Gary Smith, a lorry driver, who keeps almost 50 dangerous snakes in his three-bedroom terraced house. In his venomous menagerie are a 12ft python, 36 assorted snakes in one room, and Thor, a monitor who became locally notorious after Gary overturned a council decision banning him from walking him in the city’s parks. Asked whether he thought the animals should be in the wild, Gary says: "Their habitat’s just shrinking so fast and if we haven't got ‘em, [and] people learning to actually care about them, they’re just gonna get extinct sooner or later and people are just gonna see ‘em on pictures."

In Chipping Norton, Jim Clubb, who owns five tigers, is one of the most influential members of the network of dangerous wild animal owners in the UK. He shows Ross a pair of black leopards he has recently acquired, saying: "We’re in contact with zoos all over the world. I mean, there are people that we call animal brokers that find animals for you and say there’s a leopard in such and such a zoo surplus. That’s how we find the animals."

Ross travels to the coast of West Wales to meet Tracey and Dean Tweed who sold their home in Kent, and paid £625,000 to take over a zoo in Borth, then known as Britain’s worst. They had hoped to turn the zoo around, but with no experience looking after dangerous wild animals, they were soon beset by problems - particularly when one of their wild cats, a lynx, escaped from its enclosure. Days after the first lynx was shot dead, another lynx accidentally died following a handling error. The local council also highlighted a number of other problems with the zoo and had ordered the couple to find new homes for many of their dangerous animals, including the lynx and two lions. Ross asks how difficult it is to find a home for a pair of major predators like lions.

Tracey says: "Well, we’ve written to over 600 zoos and private organisations in the UK and Europe at the moment, to see if they’ve got homes, but so far all 600 have come back and said not at the moment. I mean, for us, they’re priceless...

"We’ve never run a zoo before, but we’ve always had a vested interest in zoos, we’ve always paid attention to what they’re doing, in our younger days, some of the zoos we knew were not great places and we used to campaign to actively get them closed down… I mean, we’ve always been honest and open about the way we run this place because I know, we know in our heart of hearts that we do the very best for these animals."

In Salcombe, Devon, Ross meets 47-year-old single mum Christine Courtney, who three years ago left a lucrative, high-pressure job in the city and set up as a trader and breeder of dangerous wild animals - specifically serval cats. She tells him: "My son put at the top of his Christmas list to spend more time with mummy, and I was currently, at that point, doing 80-90 hours a week. I’d put him to bed and I’d be back on the laptop again and I just realised it had to change. And that’s just where it started."

She also says that other than providing for her son, the cats come first, saying: "It is obsessive. If you’re gonna do it, you’ve got to do it properly."

In Cambridgeshire, 50-year-old farmer Andy Johnson’s family has owned their farm for more than hundred years and it now boasts 300 deer, 150 cattle and several ostriches - plus a collection of crocodiles donated by a private collector, which he tells Ross he views as an environmentally friendly alternative to incinerators for dealing with dead livestock. He says: "It started as a bit of a joke. We argued putting crocodiles in would be the best way forward. [The] originals came in, I’d got no love of a crocodile, I didn’t understand the crocodiles, never handled a crocodile and just I knew that they ate meat and they liked warm air and warm water.

 

 

Now an expert and huge fan of the species, he has some unusual plans for when he dies, telling Ross: "My long-term aim is whether tomorrow or 20 years’ time, that hopefully by then it’ll be agreed that I can be fed to a crocodile to, you know, put my bit back. That is where we’re looking. You know, is it gonna be possible to use humans as a protein source to feed humans back, to take pressure off of the environment, off of the world's resources?"