Strelley’s lion keeper Reece Oliver has completed his new enclosure for his lions – and he’s now caring for a rare animal he calls ‘Mr T’.
Nottinghamshire Live agenda editor Joseph Locker and photographer Joe Raynor got an exclusive look inside the newly expanded compound after it was approved at a Broxtowe City Council planning meeting September 20 of last year.
It was the second planning application to be approved in 2021, despite heated discussions among councilors at the time.
Mr Oliver has since completed the new enclosure, costing around £30,000 more than the original 480 square meter enclosure which houses Rocky, a lion, Rora, a lioness and Rogue, a Canadian puma.
The enclosure runs parallel to the M1 on Main Road, Strelley, and now covers over 1,000 square metres.
According to the UK government, the legally required size of an enclosure must be at least 37 square meters.
It is believed the Strelley enclosure now rivals some of Britain’s largest zoo lion enclosures and the old one will now undergo a refurbishment.
“It’s much better for them,” says Mr Oliver, standing on a new elevated viewing platform above the compound.
“Regarding the planning request, I didn’t understand the opposition, because it wasn’t to decide whether they could stay or not, it was to expand it. That’s why I didn’t understand why councilors voted against it.
“It was to do better for them. They have more space, it’s more enrichment for them. It’s the biggest space possible.”
The first extension was approved by a casting vote, after initially reaching an impasse.
His enclosure was also the subject of a petition calling for a ban on keeping wild animals.
Nearby residents had initially expressed concern, saying they were kept awake at night by ‘roars’, but Mr Oliver believes its unique compound offers the leafy Nottinghamshire village much more than meets the eye.
“Everyone says I should just re-wild them, but I can’t because they’re from captivity,” Mr Oliver added.
“The male would struggle to survive because he wouldn’t be accepted. Rora could do that, but they don’t know how to hunt.
“I think it’s good for Strelley because it’s almost created a kind of tourism. There are hundreds of walkers coming to look for the lions, and they’re all going to eat at the pub or have coffee at the cafe.
Many high-profile journalists have visited Mr Oliver’s compound, including Stacey Dooley and Ross Kemp.
Their visits were spurred in part by the success of Netflix’s Tiger King documentary series.
Both Rocky and Rora have been rescued from captivity in Eastern Europe and Mr. Oliver insists they have the best life he can offer them.
Rora was visibly happy in the new grassy enclosure which includes a waterhole and a huge wooden climbing frame with a bridge.
The fearsome duo, now three, were fed a turkey by Mr Oliver, which he says Morrison donated to him to save the meat that would go to waste.
Since Nottinghamshire Live last visited, he is now caring for a very friendly South American tapir, who rolled onto his back as Mr Oliver rubbed his belly.
‘Sir. T’, as he calls it, was rescued from Germany after being rejected.
It is understood that tapirs are becoming rare in the wild due to severe habitat loss.
Mr Oliver says he has no plans yet to go public with what he hopes to do next, but he remains adamant that no future proposals will be stopped.
“People may keep trying to stop it, but it will never happen,” he added.
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