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The actor turned documentary maker, 56, will share his “eye-opening and disturbing” journey during a two-part special for ITV.
Britain’s Tiger Kings – On The Trail With Ross Kemp, which will air in the spring, will see Kemp investigate what motivates people to keep wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles and giant snakes.
He will visit a man who keeps two lions in his back garden, a couple who have used the profits from their scrap metal business to buy some 200 animals, and a former circus trainer who now trains animals for TV and film.
Kemp, who played hardman Grant Mitchell on EastEnders for more than 25 years, will also travel to Munich, Germany, where he will end up in a cage with a lion.
The show follows the success of Netflix’s hugely popular Tiger King documentary series, which focused on colourful big cat breeder Joe Exotic and his Oklahoma park, as well as his feud with activist and conservationist Carole Baskin.
“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. 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.”
“You’d think keeping big cats and other dangerous wild animals privately would only be possible in America, but incredibly there are big cats, primates, elephants and crocodiles being kept by individuals in Britain.
“In this eye-opening series, Ross meets the men and women that share their lives with animals that could potentially kill them, and investigates the many issues surrounding ownership.”
Britain’s Tiger Kings is produced by Honey Bee, whose previous programmes include Agatha Christie: 100 Years of Poirot, in association with Freshwater Films.
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