Man who keeps lions says we shouldn't tar all owners with same brush

Man who keeps two rescue lions from a Romanian circus in his back garden in a Nottingham village despite criticism from animal rights groups insists the big cats are NOT pets and ‘take everything out of your life’

  • Reece Oliver, 30, rescued lions Rocky and Rora from ‘bad conditions’ in Romania 
  • Keeps lions, a Puma and 27 monkeys in enclosure in back garden in Nottingham 
  • Defended himself after PETA said that private owners fuel captive wildlife crisis
  • Says there are owners who rescue and keep exotic animals in a ‘really good way’

A man who rescued two lions from a Romanian circus and keeps them in his back garden says not to ‘tar all exotic animal owners with the same brush’. 

Reece Oliver, 30, is a licensed big cat owner who keeps an array of animals, including a Canadian puma, 27 monkeys and two wallabies, in an enclosure in the garden of his home in Strelley, Nottingham.  

His collection of exotic animals began after he took in a pair of monkeys from a woman who was terminally ill, and he rescued lions Rocky and Rora from ‘bad conditions’ in Eastern Europe after hearing they were set to be euthanised. 

Appearing on This Morning today, Reece defended himself against PETA, who say that private owners can ‘fuel the captive wildlife crisis’ by glamorising the ownership of exotic animals. 

However Reece insisted that his animals aren’t pets, and said while many hold negative views on private owners because of Netflix’s Tiger King, there are many people who ‘do this in a really good way’.   

Reece Oliver, 30, is a licensed big cat owner who keeps an array of animals, including a Canadian puma, 27 monkeys and two wallabies, in an enclosure in his Nottingham garden

He rescued lions Rocky and Rora from ‘bad conditions’ in Eastern Europe after hearing they were set to be euthanised

PETA told the show: ‘Private owners often fuel the captive wildlife crisis by displaying wild animals in unnatural conditions, flaunting selfies and bottle feeding on social media. These irresponsible behaviors perpetuate the damaging myth that these animals make good pets.’ 

Reece said: ‘They’re not pets, they’re not something you keep in your house. There are other countries where the laws are a lot more relaxed and people do do that. 

‘I have made mistakes in the past where I’ve taken selfies with them, and that’s not something I like to actively practice. 

‘From the Tiger King on Netflix, I think people need to take a look – there are people who do this badly and people who do this in a really good way and I think that’s in every aspect of keeping animals. 

Reese said while many hold negative views on private owners because of Netflix’s Tiger King, there are many people who ‘do this in a really good way’. Pictured, Tiger King’s Joe Exotic 

‘I think you have to make your own view and not tar everybody with the same brush.’ 

He later added: ‘It’s not an easy process and these aren’t my pets. They are a lifelong commitment and I would never say someone should have one of these as a pet. They really take everything out out of your life.’ 

Former show jumper Reece was recently given permission by Broxtowe Borough Council to expand his enclosure, despite backlash from neighbours, and says it could be expanded to ten times its current size. 

‘At the moment we have the original enclosure we built for them when they were cubs and we’ve just got permission to expand it, five or six times, even ten times the size of what it is now. 

Former show jumper Reece was recently given permission by Broxtowe Borough Council to expand his enclosure, despite backlash from neighbours. Pictured, a puma at Reece’s enclosure 

‘With much more enrichment activities, we’re always upgrading the security and the conditions to make it completely the best for them. 

‘We have laser surroundings to stop intruders coming in and great alarm systems and tracking systems to make sure the cats don’t escape, we’re always trying to improve the facilities to make it the best for them.’   

When asked whether there had ever been problems with the animals getting too close to staff members, he said: ‘No we have a really good procedure. 

‘We have as much protective contact as possible and really good risk assessment to make it safe for the animals and safe for us.’ 

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