Nearly 2,500 ‘dangerous wild animals’ kept by private collectors in England
Mountain lions, alligators and zebras are just a few of the nearly 2,500 “dangerous wild animals” being kept by private collectors in England, according to a survey of council licensing data.
The list includes Bactrian camels in Sedgemoor, grey wolves in West Berkshire, honey badgers in Cornwall and deadly snakes in Bolsover.
The survey found the Buckinghamshire council area leads the country, with 325 dangerous wild animals registered, including blackbuck antelope, capuchin monkeys, lemurs and ostriches.
West Oxfordshire district council, with 200 exotic animals licensed, came second – with the large total including animals at Heythrop Zoological Gardens, an unlicensed zoo run by ex-circus trainer Jim Clubb, who hires out animals including trained hippos, tigers and zebras for TV shows, films and private parties.
Cornwall came in third place, with 165 dangerous wild animals registered – many of which belong to the collector and conservationist Todd Dalton, who runs the Feral-Wild Animal Project, a menagerie including two sun bears and a large variety of big cats.
There are 14 different species of exotic feline owned privately in Cornwall, including a cheetah, a mountain lion and a snow leopard.
Cornwall has for decades been dogged by rumours of big cats on the loose, with reports concentrated around the north-eastern area of Bodmin Moor.
Sceptics have scoffed at stories about the “Beast of Bodmin”, saying the climate and limited food supply would make sustaining a breeding population on the moors impossible. But a privately maintained population of big cats could provide a plausible explanation for such sightings.
Police around the country received 32 calls about big cat sightings in 2021, and last year, Devon and Cornwall police recorded a sighting of a lynx in Helston.
England also has numerous bison farms, where the animals are farmed for meat, with 105 of the North American beasts roaming the plains of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, 47 at Bush Farm in Warminster, Wiltshire, and another 40 at a ranch in Durham.
Alligators are registered to owners in South Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and West Oxfordshire.
One of the world’s most dangerous arachnids, the brown recluse spider, resides in Dacorum, north-west Hertfordshire, with the 2.5cm-long spider capable of dispensing necrotic bites which can destroy blood vessels, tissue and nerves.
Six king cobras – hooded vipers native to South Asian jungles and capable of killing an elephant with a single bite – are registered to owners in Bolsover, Dacorum, Dover, Hertsmere, Stroud and West Northamptonshire.
Various species of venom-spraying snakes, which can poison people from a distance of up to 3 metres, are also slithering around UK vivariums – including the Mozambique spitting cobra, which is registered to owners in Dover and Thanet and must be handled with goggles to avoid its flying cocktail of toxins causing blindness.
Also famous for spitting, camels are another commonly kept pet, with the survey finding six council areas – Melton, North Hertfordshire, North Northamptonshire, Sedgemoor, Staffordshire Moorlands and West Oxfordshire – are home to the two-humped species native to the steppes of central Asia.