Ross is on the trail of Britain’s Tiger Kings

Tuesday: Britain’s Tiger Kings – On the Trail with Ross Kemp; (ITV, 9pm)

Monday, 5th April 2021, 5:00 pm
Ross Kemp with one of a collection of 5 rare Bengal Tigers at Heythrop Zoological Garden in Oxfordshire

One effect of the Covid-19 pandemic has been increased TV viewing and streaming.

And the biggest lockdown series of all has been Tiger King, the Netflix series which came from out of nowhere to become one of the most successful TV shows of all time.

The documentary (Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, to give it its full title), focused on colourful big cat breeder and convicted felon Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, his Oklahoma park and his feud with activist and conservationist Carole Baskin.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It was released worldwide on March 20, 2020, and by July, it had been watched by over 64 million households.

A year on, and the world seemingly still can’t get enough of big cat stories.

Last night, we saw Louis Theroux revisit self-proclaimed ‘Tiger King’ Joe – who he met back in 2011 when he was working on his BBC documentary America’s Most Dangerous Pets.

And tonight we see the concluding part of ITV documentary Britain’s Tiger Kings – On the Trail with Ross Kemp in which the actor meets some of the UK’s private zoo owners and looks at their motivations.

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

And the two-part series shows the award-winning documentary maker 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.

“When I first started making these films I didn’t think it was possible to privately own a lion or a tiger in this country,” Ross says.

“I’ve found it truly eye-opening and disturbing to discover just how easy it is to source one and get permission to keep it legally.

“These programmes explore what motivates someone to want to own a wild animal – whether it be a tiger, a lion, a 20ft snake or even a crocodile, and whether it is right to do so.

“It certainly is a complex and emotive subject, and I found that some of the people who kept wild animals were quite extraordinary.

“It’s important to remember that all the big cats I came into contact with were born into captivity and therefore wouldn’t survive in the wild.

“But when I asked if they would consider sending their cat to a sanctuary which offers something close to a natural habitat – the answer was often ‘no’.”

In last week’s first programme (available on the ITV Hub), Ross met a man who keeps two lions in his back garden, and discovered that the rescued big cats have caused fierce division in the village where they are kept, with some neighbours expressing concern about the wellbeing of the big cats.

Tonight, he chats to a man who keeps 46 snakes, as well as a crocodile owner with an unusual death wish. Finally, he discovers what happens when wild cats escape – and like the Netflix series, the footage is not for faint-hearted.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.

You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to

With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Thank you