Wild animals such as tigers, lions, leopards and crocodiles are being legally kept at private properties across the UK. Over 4,800 dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept in Great Britain but experts think that there could actually be ’10 times as many’ when considering those housed illegally.
According to figures from the Born Free Foundation, there are at least 50 big cats living on British soil under laws put in place for keeping pets.
Council records a show that on private property in England, primates and crocodiles are residing in Scarborough while North Hertfordshire is home to two leopards, one jaguar, five pumas and four snow leopards. There are also lions and tigers in West Oxfordshire and four pumas in Cornwall.
Scotland has seven members of the crocodile family living in North Lanarkshire along with another seven in Clackmannanshire. It also has hundreds of boar across properties in East Lothian, Perth and Kinross and East Ayrshire.
In Wales, there’s a puma that calls Swansea its home and a zebra living in Neath Port Talbot. There’s also a spider monkey as well as venomous snakes residing in the country, along with an elephant who lives at a sanctuary in Carmarthen.
We’ve also learned of pet monkeys living in kitchens and crocodilans being kept illegally in the bath tubs of flats in Edinburgh and London – the latter being fed a diet of sausages.
Jamie Mintram, 45, runs a rescue facility in Lincolnshire and has been tasked with providing wild animals with a home when Border Force intercepts plots to smuggle the creatures into the country.
Jamie told us: “It’s like anything that people are told they’re not allowed to have, whether it’s drugs or weapons – there’ll be a black market supplying people who want to go the unofficial route and they can buy these animals illegally.
“When these people are caught, which occasionally they are, by the council or the police – the animals then need a home.
“It’s not the crocodile’s fault that he’s a crocodile and so we’ve got a few dangerous wild animals here that were being kept illegally.”
Jamie’s family-run Ark Wildlife Park is funded by being open to the public and aims to give the 250-plus animals a better life than they had at their previous homes.
He doesn’t buy or trade the animals and his enclosures have been designed so that no physical contact ever needs to be made with dangerous creatures.
While dangerous animal keeper Jamie does believe that the DWA Act needs stricter measures to ensure welfare, he’s more worried about the black market that still operates in the UK.
Jamie told that: “The public are always going to be concerned about anyone keeping big cats or venomous snakes at home, whether they’re doing it legally or not – but at least with those that have done it correctly, they have had some form of inspection.
“The guys I’d be really worried about are the ones you can’t get the facts and figures for as they’re doing it under the radar and, I’m afraid, they are out there.”