A wildlife park in Horncastle will feature in the two-part ITV documentary ‘Britain’s Tiger Kings’ with Ross Kemp.
The first episode will air on ITV at 9pm on Tuesday, March 30, as Ross goes on the trail of Britain’s very own tiger and lion kings — those who keep dangerous wild animals. It looks into why and how these animals are kept.
Tracy Walters and Andrew Riddel own Wolds Wildlife Park in Horncastle, which now has a collection of around 230 animals including lions, leopards, tapirs, camels, a lima, and a lynx, as well as two tigers who will be arriving in the near future.
They initially turned down the opportunity when they were first approached by the production company Honey Bee, as they are not keen on the limelight. But they later decided to participate and enjoyed meeting Ross.
A crew went to the wildlife park to do some filming around September last year before returning to get more shots at the Lincolnshire attraction before Christmas.
In between, Andrew also went to Germany with Ross for more filming. Andrew and Tracy were gifted four lions by circus performer Martin Lacey Jr in 2019 after looking after his dad.
Part of the documentary shows Andrew and Ross going to see Martin at Krona Circus, where the lions and tigers are kept. Ross unwittingly ends up in a cage with a lion.
Unfortunately, Wolds Wildlife Park no longer has a tiger as nine-year-old Syas had to be put down in February 2020 due to a deteriorating spinal condition. Two new tigers will be arriving at the park in the near future.
Wolds Wildlife Park will reopen on April 12 for a week. From then, it will be open Fridays to Sundays, as well as on bank holidays and school holidays, until September.
Plans for winter will be decided at a later date.
Tracy, whose favourite animals are the lions, told The Lincolnite : “The crew were really easy to get on with and really down to earth. Ross is fantastic and a really nice bloke, nothing phases him.
“They say on the show that it is easy to own these animals, but I can assure you it isn’t. It can be extremely challenging, paperwork wise and the hoops you have to jump through, and staff all have to be specially trained.
“We are fully confident in the standard of animal welfare we provide and feel we have nothing to hide so decided to go ahead with the documentary.
“We are hopping the show will attract more customers. When we posted the news about it, all the comments were good and supportive and we hope they will remain supportive throughout the documentary and in the future.”
Wolds Wildlife Park’s story
In January 2017, Tracy and Andrew started digging and making space out the back of the site, initially just for one tiger (Syas) to be rehomed. At this point they already had a private collection of camels and zebras.
In July 2018, Wolds Wildlife Park opened for two days in the summer. It was only allowed to open for six days in a 12-month period at that time due to the type of licence they had.
They later opened for another weekend under their DWA licence and then did everything in their power to try and get a zoo licence.
This was granted in December 2019, enabling the park to open to the public any day of the week and however many times they want.
However, lockdown meant they were only able to open for seven weeks last year. This has impacted on the park financially too, as the couple fund it all themselves.
Andrew and Tracy previously outlined a three-year vision for two plots of lands either side of Hemingby Lane. It will feature a series of 20 enclosures and shelters along with an education centre and a reception building housing a gift shop and cafe.
Lockdown has knocked those plans back and the couple have had no help with funding. Plans are still ongoing, but will take longer than initially hoped.
Tracey is hoping that by December 2021 they will have a kids soft play area ready to generate extra income to help fund the animals.