3rd January 2023

When you imagine a quiet residential village such as Strelley, nestled in the outskirts of Nottinghamshire, the last thing you’d expect to find there is a zoo, right? Yet shockingly, that is exactly where the small-scale and (so-called) private animal collection, Strelley Wildlife Conservation Facility, is situated, keeping a variety of wild animals captive since planning permission was approved by Broxtowe Council in 2019. The facility is owned by an individual called Reece Oliver, and includes wild animals such as lions, ring-tailed lemurs and a Canadian puma. The animals’ enclosures are essentially set up in the back-yard of his own private residence. Regularly in the press over the years for a number of concerning animal welfare and public safety concerns, Oliver has encountered a significant  backlash since setting up the zoo, and for good reason. 

In May 2019, a 16 year old girl was attacked by the zoo’s resident Canadian puma, Rogue, when she entered his enclosure completely unprotected. Locals at the time were reported to be unsurprised by the shocking events, already being well aware, and rightly concerned, of the risks involved when poorly trained staff are hired to deal with potentially dangerous wild animals in a completely unsuitable and unsafe environment. Oliver talks to the press regularly about how “safe and secure” his zoo is, but this horrifying event shows how weak this claim truly is.

Freedom for Animals campaigns and fights for the freedom of all animals kept captive for entertainment, so we know that private collections and zoos are cruel establishments can never provide the appropriate space or needs for the suffering animals held captive in them. Wild animals have complex ecological needs and requirements with regard to nutrition, space, climate, behaviour and social structure, which cannot be met in captive conditions, especially those run in private collections such as Oliver’s. Not only are the welfare needs of the animals highly lacking in such set-ups, but also the consideration for human and animal safety. Being in such close proximity to local residents presents a huge danger to both the public's well being, and to the animals involved, as zoo escapees are so often killed to protect the public.

With all the dangers and risks mentioned, it is shocking to hear that in 2021 Broxtowe Council approved further planning permission for Oliver to extend the enclosures at the zoo, despite the public concerns for safety and the location of the premises meaning that the area's green belt would be affected by future building works. Now, the same council are considering whether to grant new planning permission to another zoo project run by Reece Oliver, which will hold yet more animals captive in an establishment primarily built for profit.

Oliver argues that the inhabitants at Strelley Wildlife Conservation Facility are rescue animals who have come from captive environments in Eastern Europe and beyond, and will therefore never be releasable. He claims he has given them a safe place to live, and that his set-up is a sanctuary rather than a standard private collection or zoo. However, this is far from the case.

In possible breach of his current Dangerous Wild Animal licence, he has already opened the zoo up to the public in August 2022 for highly priced bookings, offering slots where families can get up-close and feed the animals through bars. And further plans were submitted that same year to turn his self-proclaimed ‘private zoo’ into a public attraction, and build a restaurant, spa and overnight/viewing accommodation to allow future visitors to seemingly get up close and personal interaction with the animals for extended periods of time, under the guise of raising funds for numerous charities. He has also allowed the resident lions, Rocky and Rora, to breed and birth two cubs despite it being a condition of his licence that he would not allow them to breed, which no true sanctuary would ever deem acceptable due to the health and welfare risks associated with inappropriate breeding.

In truth, Reece Oliver is clearly aiming to run a zoo for profit, and often claims in the press that the space he holds the animals captive now rivals many of Britain's largest zoos. Yet regardless of this, no zoo can provide the appropriate space or environment for animals to live a natural life, which is why so many individuals sadly develop problems arising from malnutrition, stress, illness and stereotypical behaviour. The consideration of yet another zoo being built in 2023 is both outdated and concerning.

Using animals for entertainment is never acceptable, and zoos hold no conservation value to wild individuals. These incredible animals belong in the wild, or within a Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accredited sanctuary that will always have their best interests and welfare needs at heart.

The planning application is now live again, and accepting comments on Broxtowe Council's website.

We have submitted an objection with the council and are now calling on our wonderful supporters to do the same!