Travelling to America's heartlands, Louis Theroux spends time with people who have private collections of tigers and chimpanzees.
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How safe is it for them to be outside? I heard they bite your nose off.
-Oh, no, no, no.
-But it does happen?
Come here to Mama.
-He's OK. He just wants to hug.
-Hello, how do you do?
-Quite strong, isn't he?
-He's quite strong.
-He's not going to bite me?
-Why do I think he will bite me?
-I don't know.
He's not going for my nuts. He's not going to bite my testicles?
-He wants you to hold him.
-He wants you to hold him.
-He'll squeeze you.
-He's not going to bite?
-He'll put his mouth on you.
Just kiss him. Give him kisses.
-Oh, that's lovely.
-I read so much about them ripping your face off.
-Don't act nervous.
-I'm not nervous.
It's actually quite nice.
'I was on safari in the suburbs, on the trail of wild animals
'and wild animal owners,
'who have turned dangerous jungle creatures into human companions.'
-You don't think animals really want to be wild?
They're not stupid.
'Despite their risks,
'there is a large and growing population of exotic animals who make their homes here in America.
'And a network of breeders and dealers who make a living out of wildlife in captivity.'
He decided he was going to be a tiger and they couldn't say, don't shoot my tiger.
-Just let him eat...?
-Say, eat me.
'I was hoping to find out if the practice is fair on the animals,
'whether it's even safe and, most of all,
'why anyone would want a tiger.'
'GW Exotic Animal Park is a not-for-profit zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma,
'with one of the largest big cat collections in the world.'
'I'd arranged with park owner Joe Schreibvogel,
'better known as Joe Exotic, to spend a few days at the park.
'But my arrival had coincided with some unpleasant news.'
Hi, we're going to do this rescue real quick
and we've got just a limited time, OK?
By early afternoon, they're forecasting a tornado outbreak.
This is going to be, some of you, your first experience,
so as soon as we get back, all the animals are going in lockdown.
Putting all the cats in lockdown,
the chimps are going lockdown, all the primates are going lockdown.
And we're going to get prepared for the worst.
I have never in my life seen what they put on TV as far as a warning.
It's going to get that bad.
You think there could be a tornado on the way here?
-That is what they are calling for.
-You have how many tigers here?
-So it could release the tigers...
-It would be a disaster.
-..into Oklahoma City.
-It could be a disaster.
-These are captive-bred tigers, are they not?
-They're not wild-born tigers. In a sense they're tame.
They're not going to be as dangerous as if a wild tiger was to be out there.
But the only hazard is what the people would do to approach them.
You know. Because these tigers would think you want them to play.
What do I do if I...? I mean, can I help if there's an emergency?
HE LAUGHS We'll lend you a gun!
-We have enough guns.
-It will be sad if...
-It would be a horrible thing.
-It would be sad if you had to shoot a bunch of tigers.
-It would be horrible.
-Could you do that?
-I would have to.
'In previous lives, Joe had been a cop and a pet-store owner.
'And he was still occasionally a magic entertainer.
'Joe's park has more than 200 big cats,
'including lions, tigers and a rare half-lion, half-tiger crossbreed,
'called a liger.
'Many of the animals are rescued and rehomed from private owners who could no longer take care of them.'
OK. Let the fun begin.
'The tornado is still a few hours away.
'Joe had an appointment to rescue some more animals.'
Tornadoes scare me more than tigers.
Cos at least you can fight back with a tiger.
There's no fighting back with a tornado.
One of the pitfalls of exotic pet ownership
is that animals that are manageable when small
become more of a burden as they mature.
-How you doing?
-It's been years.
-You don't look a whole lot different, other than you're greyer.
-A little bit!
-How are you going to attempt this, Joe?
-That's what we're sitting here discussing -
-which one we want to do first.
-Are you going to tranquillise them?
We're going to have to tranquillise the leopard. Leopards are a little more aggressive...
than tigers are.
-Why do you have them?
-It's just something I always wanted to have, ever since I was a little kid.
-They're just pets?
-Yeah, yeah. I've always loved them.
-How come you're having to get rid of the animals?
-I hurt my back couple of years ago.
I can't really get in with 'em or do anything with them, so...
So he's re-homing them to the best facility in the country.
'The cargo for this outing would be Curtis's tigers, Madonna and Big Boy,
'and his leopard, Jade.'
Come here, girl.
Come here, sister. Come here, sister.
The first job - to put them to sleep.
That's all I needed.
This will be painless.
There you go! Good night.
-There you go.
These are amazing animals and you would think they'd have a value -
is there not a big market for fully grown tigers, for private buyers?
-There is no market.
You couldn't sell that tiger today for 100.
There's too many out there to give away.
I have 176 of them. HE CHUCKLES
'Back at Joe's park, Jade, Madonna and Big Boy
'were introduced to their new lodgings.'
There you go. She's still sleepy.
One, two, three.
Ooh! Oh! Oh!
OK, now, this is what... Ssh! Be quiet.
Keep him in the shade.
Finish locking down your cats.
We are...right here.
Here's Ardmore, where we just were. Here's Pauls Valley.
It's estimating in the next hour and a half,
it's going to be big enough to start producing tornadoes.
Are you nervous?
We got to do lock-ups. It's getting darker.
'Before the tornado hit,
'all the animals would have to be locked indoors.'
Come on. Wah! One more...
One more time. Wah!
Joe, are they chimpanzees?
Turn around. Turn round.
-There we go!
-Would you get in there with them?
That's dangerous. That would be stupid, for me to get in with them,
because they... They would hurt me.
Then they would get a bad name, so we just play through the bars.
They don't look threatening.
They'll lure you in,
and they'll be really, really lovable.
Until they can get you. And it's a game to them.
Have you locked these down now?
They're cleaning the inside and they're feeding inside and then they'll go in lockdown.
-For the tornado?
Are we OK to come in?
-Is it safe?
Get him! Get him!
The chimps are secure and in lockdown.
TIGER GROWLS What? What is that?
What? Monique's in heat.
Which one is Monique?
-The Tiger. It's actually a ti-liger.
-What's a ti-liger?
A liger mom and a white tiger dad.
"So that's my girlfriend, huh?"
See, normally, he wouldn't growl at you. Hey! Hey!
That's your girlfriend, tell 'em! Hmm? Yep!
-Do you like it when they do that to you?
-We don't encourage that.
If he was to get you,
he would not kill you and eat you right away.
He's going to torment you.
So if you were to get in there
and I was out here trying to get you out,
he would be on top of you, covering you up because you're his.
-I'd just shoot you. It'd be more humane.
-You'd shoot me? In the head?
Yeah! HE CHUCKLES
Cos I'm not going to get you back, so why make you suffer?
If I ever got attacked by a lion like that, shoot me, please.
Yeah. That would go on for hours. Unless you shot the lion.
That would make more sense - shoot the lion.
Here we go.
This man across the street from us, he has 200 horses.
So imagine 200 horses and 176 tigers in the same mass.
-My money's on the tigers!
It wouldn't look good!
"The National Weather Service in Norman has issued a tornado warning for extreme north-westerly..."
-"Precautionary preparedness actions -
"take cover now.
"Under no circumstances be around wild animals - tigers, lions especially dangerous.
-'Take cover now. Leave mobile homes and vehicles.'
-What do you see?
A tornado. Just over the gift shop.
-Approximately eight miles away.
-You seem excited!
-I am, yeah.
'The day before, in neighbouring Missouri,
'a tornado had killed more than 150 people.'
Come back this way, cos it's going to blow hard.
-You want to go in before it gets really bad?
-It's totally up to you.
This is going to blow straight through there. Uh-oh.
-That's not a good sign.
I don't see any rotation.
Here we go! The angels are shining on us!
They're keeping us from getting hurt.
Look out that-a-way.
That's just here.
Got to have faith. Hurry up - it's going to go away, cos you've got faith.
'But our luck was in. There would be no tigers shot tonight.
'The next day, and with the extreme weather out of the way,
'it was time for a tour of the park.'
-What's going on here?
-You want to sit in and play with them?
-There's a bear and a... They're kind of cuddling.
-They ARE cuddling.
They're buddies. Come on in.
Hey! Come here. Come here.
Sit down here.
How old is she?
-She's about four months.
-Why have you put a tiger in...
with a bear?
This is scary! This is scary!
These two may be able to stay together for ever.
-And then they might not.
-Why would you want that?
-That would be awesome.
-Because they are two species that get along.
That would just go to show, as a educational tool,
here at our park, that no matter who we are, we should get along.
-Did that hurt?
-Did THAT hurt?
-No. No, no, no, it did not.
Some would say, "Let tigers be tigers.
-"Let them be true to their tiger nature..."
-What is a tiger nature?
-Kind of, yeah. To kill. Not to be cuddling with a bear.
-He's in captivity. He will never be a tiger.
-What will he be, then?
A tiger in captivity. HE CHUCKLES
NOW that hurts!
So, what kind of life is that for a tiger, then?
-I mean, do you think they are happy...
-Oh, shoot! THAT one hurt!
The question was...?
How happy is a tiger in an enclosure?
In the wild, they roam for hundreds of miles.
And it's such a restricted existence, isn't it?
Can... Can you miss something you've never experienced?
This cat has never been in an area to roam 200 miles,
so how can he miss that? It's kind of like...
if you were born in a wheelchair,
are you sure you're going to be happier walking instead of riding?
Because you've never walked.
'Though Joe rescues and re-homes unwanted animals,
'he also breeds them.
'The practice is controversial.
'Animal rights groups have accused Joe of creating more surplus tigers,
'calling Joe's park a "scam-tuary".
'He invited me to meet some of his latest arrivals at his home.'
Am I right in thinking you have a fairly newborn tiger in here?
-Not named yet.
-Not even named yet? How old?
-Can we meet him?
I need to ask Paul if he's fed him.
-If he hasn't been fed, we can feed him.
-One of my other half.
-One of your...?
Other significant others.
-There's two men in your life?
-Is that difficult?
What about jealousy - sexual jealousies - between the three of you.
Because it never happens without all three of us.
-And that works?
Cos we're all too tired to have sex.
This is my youngest.
What, little baby? What, little buddy? OK.
So, how old was he when he was taken from his mum?
-I fed him from the minute he was still wet.
Why breed them?
So in 10 to 15 years, when there's none left in the wild,
we have some in captivity to replace the wild.
-You think they'll go extinct in the wild?
-I know they will.
Would it make more sense to prioritise, er,
conserving their habitats in the wild,
rather than reproducing more tigers in captivity?
Well, you know, there's people...
There's people that are working on that.
But unfortunately, we have more powers higher than us
destroying the habitat.
-How will you raise this one?
-This one will be raised to know us.
-To know you?
-You will be that tiger's mum, in effect?
Yep, for the rest of its life.
In a way, are you raising the tiger to be half tiger, half human?
To be tame, in other words?
Well, I'm going to raise him to be a tiger and respect humans. TIGER SQUEALS
-Why is he...? Is he OK?
-Yeah. Every time after they feed, they do that.
OK, so, we're raising him to respect me,
and I respect him enough that we both can stand there
-and teach you about his native land.
-His native land is America?
Well, his great-great-great-grandfather's land is Siberia.
Russia. So, we're going to, er, grow up together and teach him
how to respect Russia, even though he's never been there.
So he is serving an ultimate purpose to do with conservation,
-in your view?
So in a way, you're making certain practical concessions
-for the long-term benefit of its habitat?
'But Joe's animal ambassadors do serve another purpose.
'One of the main ways the park pays for itself through an exotic animals roadshow.
'Joe's breeding programme is needed to provide cubs
'for interactions with the public.'
-Louis, I'm Beth.
-You've been here all week - is that right?
We started yesterday and we'll be here through Sunday. Set up every day.
Who goes in these two?
This right here is Fergie and this right here, over to your right,
is the older cats.
-Fergie is one of the... Who's Fergie?
-And the bear?
-The bear, she stays on the other side, over there.
You've been on the road, more or less continuously, since January - is that right?
Yeah, for almost a year we've been continuously on and off the road.
And the animals? They'll be on the road for a couple of months?
-And how do you think they like it?
Some might think, "Oh, it's a bit stressful for them, being trucked around like that."
It's not stressful on them at all. They're very content, very happy,
and they enjoy coming out and getting the attention.
What's a good day?
A good day... A good day on the weekend is probably about 4,000.
Olivia! Can you look right here?
Olivia! Not too tight.
All right, good job! Good job!
-So that's how it works?
-Yes, that's how it works.
That's how people can help us out and hopefully they have some memories to share with their family.
That bear seems kind of frisky - he seems to want to run around.
She's frisky - yes, she is frisky. Little bears ARE frisky.
They have a lot of energy.
Do you think they're happy in the cages?
I don't really want this to go anywhere else about this, OK?
As far as... They're... She's...
I don't want to say anything else, OK? I just don't want to, OK?
But you're saying, "Yes, they are." Isn't that...?
Well, yes, absolutely. This is the life they know and the life they're going to be very happy with.
-I'd love to have that bear.
-You'd like to have it as a pet?
What about when it grew up?
Well, you know, I like training little animals.
I've trained dogs - plenty of little dogs and stuff like that.
-Have you seen a full-size bear up close?
-Rip your head right off.
Maybe. I don't know about that.
-I want a tiger - one of those little ones.
I don't know about when it got bigger.
-But having one like that would be cool.
-Cos they're like, playful.
-And it's different.
Like, everybody has a dog, everybody has a cat, but no-one has a tiger.
700 miles away from Joe's park in Charlestown, Indiana,
is another self-styled sanctuary, Animals In Need And In Deed,
owned and run by Tim Stark.
Where his animals are concerned, Tim has a hands-on philosophy.
Are you ready? Huh? Ready?
TIGER GROWLS Huh?
-You want some of this?
-I don't know if he's enjoying that, Tim.
-He loves it.
Oh, quit. Oh, quit.
You know, a lot of people joke around and call me Dr Doolittle. And I take that as...
I take that offensive.
-I tell them I'm Dr Do A Lot, not Dr Doolittle.
-Where are we actually going right now?
-Here's the bears.
These are the four bears I've got. Come here, Obidiah.
-You're... You said you're comfortable getting in with these bears.
-Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.
-Well, shall we see you go in there?
If you're comfortable doing that - you really don't feel it's a risk?
I don't care if I don't come back out of there.
I know the risk I'm taking.
-You don't care if you come back out again?
-This is what I do.
If I die doing what I love to do, so be it.
Hmm. Hi, buddy. Hey, come here.
-Obadiah, grizzly bear. Come here.
-This is Obadiah?
-And this one?
-Eli. I discipline him more because he's a troublemaker,
so I get in here. He's leering at me. You can see him look at me different.
-How do you discipline him?
-Just mainly by voice commands.
Even, like, if I want to move him... Move it! Come on, move it!
And he's automatic. You know, I've taught him that from the time they were little.
-Do they like it in here, do you think?
-Yeah, they seem to like it.
-Does the pacing bother you?
I've seen animals in the wild step up to a fence or whatever
and pace back and forth.
-So, you know...
-What about people who say, "These are wild animals.
"You are going against their intrinsic nature by penning them up.
"Even in a fairly big enclosure like this, it doesn't approximate
-"anything like what a bear would range in in the wild."
-They need to understand,
the main reason that they have that larger territory out in the wild
is not because that animal chooses to travel that distance.
That animal HAS to travel that distance.
Don't you take pleasure in those things that you could call survival?
The idea of finding food and making sure you have what you need?
Isn't that, in a way, part of what gives you a sense of satisfaction in your life?
A perfect example of that is, if you see the bears around your national parks,
or in Alaska and stuff, where they're closer to a human population, where do they go?
They come to the human population. Why? Free food.
-So you don't think animals really want to be wild?
Their instincts are to survive, but they'd much rather survive
by having everything handed to them, you know.
They're not stupid.
How you doing, boom baby? I know!
This is Tatiana.
This is Tatiana, my baboon daughter.
-Tatiana's about three years old?
-And she's safe for us to be around?
-Oh, yeah, come here, baby.
Get up here and see Daddy. Good girl. You're a good girl.
I know. I know. You want to play.
She's my little girl.
Me and her have a hell of a strong bond. She's unreal.
I know a lot of people that's had baboons and usually,
once they get about two years old, nobody messes with them because they are so strong
and can be so dangerous.
She won't hurt you. She's just going to grab you real close.
-She's going to want you to hold her. She's not a bit aggressive.
-You feel her belt?
-Just hold onto her belt.
And she'll just... That's her belt. That's more or less her harness. TATIANA SQUEALS
-She's screaming over the mic. She didn't understand the mic.
-The mic is OK.
Look at this. This is interesting.
She's wanting to groom you. She's just checking you out.
It's quite a nice feeling.
-But there's something about her face that's a little bit off-putting.
-What shall we do...?
-You know what?
-She'll automatically scream when I go to get her back.
Everything's fine. She's getting nervous when you get close and that's making me nervous.
-Why are you making her nervous?
-Just for the fact she don't want to...
-She wants to stay out. She's getting attention.
-She loves the attention.
I don't really want to touch your bum that much, is one of the things.
It's not a... It's not very appealing. Hold onto her belt.
There's a definite kind of baboon smell coming off her.
-Do you wash her?
-She takes a bath with me.
-A real bath?
-What do you think Tatiana's quality of life is like?
A spoiled-rotten brat.
Tatiana, arms up.
And so, er,
would you not think that a baboon needs to be a baboon?
For what purpose?
To live out its full function, to be who it really is.
And who are we as people to say who it really is? Tatiana! Here.
She's going to start yelling a little. Come here, brat.
Give him a kiss! Give him kisses.
Give kisses. Give kisses.
That was almost a kiss.
Do you think the fact that she's female and I'm male helps, actually?
-I really don't...
-There's a very faint kind of, er, primate...
low-level erotic dimension?
I don't know.
'Tim's park is only occasionally open to the public.
'It is somewhere between a zoo and a private menagerie.
'And though he calls it a sanctuary, he also breeds -
'and many of the animals were bought, not rescued.
'Though he was once a handyman, Tim no longer does paid work.
'His animal habit is supported by his wife, Melissa.'
When you met Tim, was this part of Tim's life back then?
I knew, deep down, the passion that he had inside but,
at that time, he didn't have any animals.
-We got married in '94 and in '97 is when I acquired my first wild cat.
Now look where I'm at!
I'll put myself in a vulnerable state when it comes to walking in a bear cage.
It's just that... You know, I fear people.
I have no respect for people. I tell her all the time -
I guess marriage is supposed to be based on trust and respect.
I refuse to trust or respect any single human being on this planet.
I don't trust myself - why would I want to trust anybody else?
-You don't trust and respect your wife?
'Back outside, Tim had one last surprise in store.'
-You said this was against the law!
-You wanted interaction with animals -
-What is our contingency plan at this point?
We'll go in here, and we'll just wait. Are you OK? Tim, is that safe?
Get in here, it's starting to rain a little too hard.
Is everyone OK? You're comfortable?
-Which tiger is that?
-This is Glacier.
We should probably have talked this through before you did it, Tim.
If that tiger decides he doesn't want to be on that leash any more,
there's not much you can do about it.
Leave it! Leave it!
-Is it safe for me to come out there?
-As far as to come over here, yeah.
I've got him under control as best as I can.
Right now, he's not going to be able to launch. I've got him short-leashed.
-He's probably quite a bit stronger than you are.
-Quite a bit.
-So in a way, he's got you by the leash more than you've got him by the leash.
Leave it. Leave it.
You know, he's wanting to go and see all the other animals and this and that.
Leave it! Leave it!
-Do you need help, Tim?
-Not a bit. I can handle it.
You're going to get on the chair, you'll break the chair.
You know what? Oh, get out of that.
In a way, do you enjoy my nervousness a little bit?
-Is it a bit like having a Harley or a big gun or something,
where there's a thrill in the sheer power?
There is somewhat of a thrill of having them, you know, as far as...
You know, you have them... Hey, chill!
Leave it! Come on. Glacier, come on. Glacier, get up.
Get up. Glacier! Get up! Hey!
Just leave it. Don't worry about them, worry about me.
Get in there.
People say all the time, "You're mixing bloodlines,"
this or that. You know, you never know. I don't know where these tigers come from.
I have no clue. I don't care.
When I have a baby tiger born here, you know what it is to me?
It's a damn baby tiger. You know, I don't give a damn what they...
-You know, Siberian...
-Sumatran, Bengal. It's a damn tiger.
100% tiger, you know. I can guarantee you that.
'Back at Joe's, there was a new face at the park.'
-Can we say hello? I haven't met you properly.
-Nice to meet you.
-How's it going?
-I'm back. I've still got a few more doctor's visits to go, but I'm back.
-You've got a health situation?
-Yeah, yeah. I'm missing a couple of feet.
-How did it happen?
-I was actually helping some friends of mine
test an amusement ride they built,
and I was actually the last live test and it failed.
We still have to run it off the chain link. We don't have enough.
'Among the chores of the day was attending to the two tigers I'd seen rescued.'
So the issue is, Madonna and Big Boy won't come into the area together?
-So you can't clean the cage?
-Why won't they go in together?
You know, I don't know. Because, well, they were together when we picked them up.
Plus, it would help, too, if Curtis would come and visit them.
-Hasn't he been?
-He hasn't been yet.
-Are they depressed?
-They're going through it, yeah.
Do you ever have to euthanise animals for depression, or not settling in?
He just doesn't want to know, does he?
-Could you feed him a popsicle?
-No, he wouldn't eat a popsicle.
'Joe was getting ready for his annual Exotic Animal Expo.'
-What you doing, Nick? You putting food in?
You can't. He hasn't washed yet. OK?
Set the food on top so he doesn't get it all wet.
Yeah, it's a little bit tense.
Like anything you're preparing for last-minute, trying to get the finishing touches.
-You have not washed your cage yet, right?
So, why are you putting your dry food in to spray the cage with water?
'Owners from around the country were converging at Joe's Park,
'many with animals in tow, for a weekend of classes and training
'in taking better care of their pets.'
-What time does it start, Joe?
-How many people have you got?
Er, last night, we had 85 or 90 here last night already.
The rest of them will be checking in this morning.
-And you'll be teaching - that's the big idea?
-That's the idea.
-What do you teach?
-How to do this, how to handle, how to shift.
How to stay alive.
That's the main goal.
-This is Louis. Louis's from London.
-Hi, how are you? We're from the BBC.
-Nice to meet you.
-How you doing?
-I'm doing good.
-You having fun?
-Who's your friend?
-This is Emily.
-Emily would be a capuchin?
-Yes, she is.
-Is she full-grown?
-Yes, she's full-grown.
-What kind of a relationship do you have?
We've got a great relationship. She goes everywhere I go.
-Hi, how are y'all?
-Hello. My name's Louis.
-How are you?
-What's your name?
She doesn't like me to touch somebody else.
Actually, she doesn't like you to touch me!
-She has pierced ears?
-Yes, she does.
They're in there - I've had people tell me to take them out.
She's a big girl. If she wants them out, she'll take them out.
-They're still in there.
-They think they're beautiful. They really...
When you tell them they're beautiful, they understand.
Those ones don't have ears big enough to get pierced.
No, I don't think that I would do it. They're just so thin.
You've got little necklaces round them, though. Do you have...
-Emily's picture in a frame, there, around your neck?
They're like our family members - we love them,
we take care of them, and when we got 'em, we expected to do that.
That's what we planned on, to make the commitment.
That's what you have to do.
You have to be very careful...
..what you ask them out there.
Cos they're very protective of their monkeys.
It's all right to say, "What's your monkey's name? Is he your pet?"
"How hard is it to take care of?"
Any kind of educational questions, you bet.
But the minute you start, you know...
"Well, what do you think about these people not liking you
"to have a monkey?"
-"Would he rather be in the wild?"
-That's a no-no.
-That is a big no-no.
Of all exotic pets, primates are considered the most challenging.
So, we're talking about seven ounces of monkey chow.
Their intelligence makes them hard to keep stimulated.
They're also liable to become unpredictable and dangerous
as they reach sexual maturity, and can live 50, and even 60, years.
You have to have a shift pen.
What a shift pen is, you have a slide door of some kind, where you can lock
the animal into another cage, so you can safely clean without ever being
inside with the primate, to protect you, the monkey,
and the reputation of private owners.
You get a lot of baby blankets that have the little silky strip
right here on the top, or down the side.
They'll unravel that and get it caught somewhere,
and we've lost two monkeys that have hung themselves
in the middle of the cages in the first year or so of our park being here.
Look at him smile!
And who's this?
-This is Maddy.
-You have a special relationship with Maddy?
-I feel like I do.
-Yeah. She's a big daddy's girl.
-Give me a kiss.
Can you kiss?
Would you give me a kiss?
Can you give me a kiss? Hey.
'The most controversial of all exotic pets is the chimpanzee.
'In 2009, a chimp called Travis, in suburban Connecticut, attacked
'and nearly killed a human neighbour, ripping off her face.'
-Hi, I'm Louis.
-Jill, nice to meet you.
-Can we come in?
-Sure, come on in.
-How are you doing?
Thanks for having us.
'Jill and Brad James are among the very few private chimp owners
'in North America, with five-year-old Tukem Kerry
'and seven-year-old Cooper.'
It's just a game.
-Is he spitting...is he spitting at me?
-What is the spitting?
-It's not friendly, is it?
-I don't think so, no. No.
Woah, woah, woah.
'It was time for another close encounter with a fellow primate.
'First out of the cage, Tukem Kerry.'
Oh, you're already helping me out.
Do you consider them your pets? How do you view them?
They're too human-like to be considered like a dog, or whatever.
I have small children, and to me it seems very like having a tiny,
hairy, very energetic little child.
It is, yes.
-And what do your friends make of it? Do they worry about the safety?
Yeah, they do, they do.
You know, there's been two chimp attacks I know of in...
ten years, probably.
I'm not making light of that - it's bad.
But do you know how many Rottweilers and dogs tear people up every day?
There's relatively few chimpanzees in captivity in America.
-chimpanzees would represent quite a serious threat in the home.
But you understand what I'm saying about dogs, too -
that they do it daily?
-Want another one? Do this.
-What do you want?
-What do you want?
-What do you want? Eat, please. There's a good boy.
-What do they eat?
-They eat Mexican, Chinese, er...
-They eat Chinese?!
Yeah, they love hot dip, spicy things.
They like pork rinds, hot pork rinds. Doritos, love Doritos.
As he gets older, will you not have to reduce
the amount of one-on-one contact, as he gets really strong?
I imagine I will. I mean, I'm going to use common sense about it,
I'm not going to put myself in the position to get hurt,
and I'll have the equipment in case it gets that way.
And then I won't go back in if that happens, you know?
At the point where he basically has to be confined to his enclosure,
will you feel bad about that?
He can still... He'll still be able to see me.
We may not be able to hug and love and all that,
but it won't be like...just totally abandoning him, you know?
-You feel you're in it for the long haul?
-Well, I don't know.
You don't know what'll hit you when you hit 60 or 70 or whatever.
'At 120 pounds, Jill and Brad's older chimp, Cooper,
'was not yet fully grown, but he was on the cusp of sexual maturity,
'and an age that is considered dangerous for a chimp.'
If we let him out and we're around him, what could happen?
Do you think it'll be all right? What do you think?
It usually is, but I would rather be safe than sorry,
so let's do it the safe way.
-Which is us in the house?
-Yeah, let's just see.
-You're not nervous or anything?
But if he bites my nose off, you could be in trouble.
-It does happen!
-Cut it out. Show him the bang-bang.
Show him the bang-bang.
You better behave. I'm not putting up with no shit out of you.
You understand? Understand?
I don't care. Oh, he wants to eat. He's going to eat. No. No!
-Here he comes.
Come here. Beep him, Brad.
-Can you come here?
We're just thinking this through,
and I think we may have what we need, so...
You're afraid of him! That's OK.
It's the element of the unpredictable that is
one of the big downsides of having a chimpanzee as a pet.
And as he gets stronger, the stakes go up, don't they?
Because the accident, if it happens, could be more serious.
But you see out there with us how gentle he is.
CHIMP THUMPS AND SCREECHES
That's just normal. That's their play thing.
They do it together, they'll get in the house and do that together.
You just got a letter back from someone
in a donation envelope that you sent?
Yeah - "Tomorrow, my husband and I were going to visit your animal park and spend the day.
"I decided to research your park on the internet tonight
"and saw the abuse of the animals documented by PETA."
-Did they say "all of the abuse"?
-"All of the abuse."
"I was shocked and disgusted and told my husband
"we would not be visiting your park tomorrow or any time in the future."
A newsletter came back in the mail today with that wrote all over it.
That's from PETA, they've seen something, from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals?
-So, what do you take from that letter?
-What do I take from it?
Ignorant people believe anything they fucking read on the internet.
So your point about the letter is that that's what you're up against?
-And that's hurting you?
We were expecting a cheque in that envelope!
-'Joe was on the brink of a financial crisis.'
-Are you out on trees?
Well...well, soak 'em good.
They're dying. I can't win for losing.
What's going on in this one?
In this cage, we have one male lion, a female lion and two female tigers.
So out of one cage, we'll get purebred lions,
and we'll have two litters of ligers.
Isn't that fascinating?
That in one cage, you can get purebreds and crossbreds?
'But closing down was not an option.
'To explain why, he took me to a special spot in the park.'
See, now, this right here, my brother's buried in Texas,
so this is where I respect my brother.
What does it say?
I need a minute.
Couldn't do that one!
It says, "To the best friend that I ever had, our brother."
And I'm going to be buried right here.
And my mum and dad are actually in the process of seeing
if they can get his body moved from there to here.
Because he's so far away that we never get to go see him.
But that's why we're here.
Me and Gerald owned a pet store in Arlington, Texas, when he got killed.
And I sold it for 70,000,
and Mom and Dad got 140,000 from his death.
I took my 70,000 and Mom and Dad took their 140,000
and we put it together and we paid for the property,
and we built this first row of cages.
-Do you think if GW saw this place, he'd be proud?
-I think he's proud.
-I know he's proud.
-It's been a hard week.
With being sick and stressed out over money and everything else, it's...
I normally don't sit out here and bawl!
'Despite all his breeding of tiger cubs,
'more and more malls were refusing to book Joe's roadshow,
'under pressure from animal rights groups.
'I wondered how much longer he could go on.'
-So are you worried, Joe?
-Oh, we worry the whole time. Non-stop.
But we'll figure it out somehow. We'll make it.
It feels quite precarious. It feels like you're on a knife edge.
Well, we've been on the edge since the day
we opened this place 11 years ago.
In a way, you're in the position now of stockpiling tigers.
They're not so much on display, because most people...they've
-seen one tiger, they don't need to see another 149.
Is there any scenario in which you could run out of money,
or cease to be able to operate this place,
and many of the big cats would have to be euthanised?
I've kicked that idea around, and if I ever went broke...
..I think I would euthanise everything, rather than put them
in another facility with the same financial stress.
-Do you really mean that?
-I don't think you're being serious.
-I don't think you know me very well.
'With my time among America's exotic animals nearing its end,
'I had one last appointment outside the park.'
-Hi, Louis, how you doing?
-Nice to meet you.
-Yeah, we got a nice rainy day.
-Yes, we do.
'Connie Casey is a chimpanzee breeder and dealer.
'She bred Jill and Brad's two chimps.
'She also bred the infamous Travis.
'She is landlady to a multitude of primates,
'including a colony of 20 chimpanzees.'
Who's up there?
Cobey and Raven and Daisy and Tony and Eric.
-What you thinking, Tony?
-Could any of these breed?
They're all intact, they could.
If you're lucky enough to have a breeding male,
then it's very fortunate for you.
In the past, baby chimps have brought in 40,000, you know?
-She really seems to enjoy human contact.
Many of Connie's chimps were once pets who grew unmanageable.
Some were entertainers. Now, they live out their days here.
Once you get in here, you'll want to stay to that wall.
If you fall, don't reach out to the cage to keep yourself from falling.
Well, I don't want your fingers to go in the cage
and you be missing a finger.
Hey, Eric. Sonny boy!
If you stand there too long, he's going to go suck up some water.
-Suck up some water and spit it?
-Yeah. Hey! You want to see? Good boy!
Good boy. Good boy.
Sheena, stop it. That's my sprinkler system. Hey!
What are you doing?
CHIMPS GRUNT AND SCREECH
Who's your rowdiest?
Er, right now, probably Connor.
CHIMP RATTLES CAGE
And then him. That's Tasha.
Why have you got screens up?
Because she, the little girl, she throws her bedding.
She's the worst thrower. It's worse throwing the bedding.
So if that wasn't there, she'd be throwing stuff at them
all the time, and then eventually they throw it back,
and so it's like...you know.
-A bedding fight.
-What did you think about the whole Travis thing?
Er, the Travis situation was a very unusual and horrible thing to happen.
-He shouldn't have been out of the cage.
-You knew him a little bit?
I knew his mom, yeah.
Is she here?
-Oh, I meant his human mom.
SCREECHING Connor, stop it.
CAGE RATTLES FURIOUSLY
-That's not necessary, is it?
-I want you to come out.
-He's got an intelligent face.
-I want you to come out.
-That didn't hurt or anything.
-He wasn't throwing it very hard.
-It could go worse than that?
-Oh, yeah. He can throw it.
-How do you feel being among the chimps? You enjoy it?
-Do you think they love you?
-The chimps? Oh, yeah. I know they do.
Do you think they don't?
It's so hard to read what they're thinking.
It's different when you live with them.
-But you wouldn't go in there with Connor.
-Not anymore I wouldn't.
Maybe because you don't trust him a little bit.
I was heading back to Joe's park for one last visit.
-Hi, guys, my name is Bonnie.
-And I'm Tim.
And we're going to be your tour guides tonight.
'On arrival, I discovered a radical new plan for pulling in visitors.'
Our park director, Joe Exotic,
has been working with animal ambassadors for over 23 years.
For over 12 years,
Joe has had a belief that the world started with one tiger,
and that was the sabre-tooth tiger some 360 million years ago.
So, for his own wonder,
Joe created this large habitat where baby tigers and baby lions
could grow up together, knowing each other as adults.
The question grew, could he take it one step further
and try to create a sabre-tooth tiger without any human interference?
Can you imagine how exciting it would be, to see
and talk to an animal ambassador that evolved from 360 million
years ago, just because of one man's belief?
So you're actually breeding a sabre-tooth tiger?!
If the male ligers weren't sterile and could breed with the lionesses,
that's the closest thing you can get to a sabre-tooth tiger.
Whose idea was that?
Scientists are trying to do it in test tubes all day long.
-Joe's actually done this naturally.
-This is Joe's idea?
What's the idea behind it?
You know, it's kind of like the zoos and stuff want it.
It's kind of like the woolly mammoth, they're trying to
remake the woolly mammoth in test tubes and recreate all the past.
-Kind of like Jurassic Park?
-Yeah, pretty much.
Don't you need research scientists and PhDs supervising,
that kind of thing?
You know, a PhD's just a document that goes on a wall, you know?
It's all been done naturally, here.
Everybody says the movie's actually come to real life.
Like a dinosaur could come out of something
and devour everyone on the park.
-Could be dangerous.
-It could be. Like it's not already dangerous!
-So you've got... This is a pretty good turnout.
We've had better. We've done tours with 54, 55 people.
-This is just 24, so...
-Is this the future?
-Is it the future?
This is the first stop of our interactive tour,
and what we're going to do is actually let you come up, one group
at a time, we're going to get your picture with this miniature horse.
As soon as we can get him to calm down a little bit.
He is only two years old,
so he does like to throw his little temper tantrums.
-A kiss, right on the lips!
-Give him a kiss.
-There we go!
Just make sure you're going around him.
And smile, you're with a tiger!
And he's not chewing on your legs. Ha-ha, he jumped!
That was a little chuck he was doing for you!
# Well, I love you so dearly I love you so clearly
# I wake you up in the mornin' so early
# Just to tell you I got the wanderin' blues... #
Joe also had a new crop of tiger cubs which
he was using for hands-on play with customers.
My stay at the park was up - for this great ape,
it was time to leave the zoo.
I'd come to see America's exotic animals as something
between pets and inmates.
Some of the unwanted ones end up at Joe's,
but even he was breeding to make ends meet.
By breeding and creating these lives,
you have a responsibility to them for life.
-How can you really track that?
Well, because most of them are still here.
Most of the tigers that are in the back were my very first
For a tiger that's born as a baby and stays here for life in one
of the cages, you think that's a pretty good life for a tiger?
I think they're spoilt.
They're taken care of.
-And chimps, too?
If I could pull my photo show off the road tomorrow, I'd do it.
But I can't.
Cos somebody has to keep stepping up to the plate and rescuing animals.
I'm called a roadside zoo - yeah, I'm next to a road, and I'm a zoo.
Big deal! Call me a roadside zoo!
But don't call me a scamtuary,
because I put my own money into keeping this place open.
It's all bullshit.
When you said you would euthanise these animals before giving
-the place up, you weren't really serious.
-I'm dead serious.
If that's what they want, before they run me out of business,
I'll euthanise every damn animal in this place.
But if you think it's wrong for them to do it, why would you do it?
Because I'm not going to let them do it.
Are you always like this, or are you under a lot of stress?
-No, I'm always like this.
-For the last 10 years?
-I was like this before.
-When you were a cop?
-You must have been a pretty weird cop.
-I was a weird cop!
In the end, the question may be, what kind of life is worth
living for a tiger?
If not for here, there would be no homes for many of these animals.
So, for them, the choice is between a small cage,
and an even smaller box.
# Here in the small town
# The people are funny
# They don't like a stranger around
# I hate to go, but there's still just one thing
# And catch me hanging around... #
He really doesn't like me.
Perhaps there was someone with glasses who was mean to him once.
Something about Ray.
He didn't know anything about Ray, he just decided Ray was OK.
He wanted to be friends with Ray. You know, same with me.
And then there's other people that...he thinks
he just doesn't like.
MONKEY SQUEALS AND SHRIEKS
He's not being aggressive, but he's not being friendly, either.
Kind of like you.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
According to some reports, there are now more tigers in captivity in the US than in the wild in the whole of Asia, as well as large numbers of lions, bears and chimpanzees.
Travelling to America's heartlands, Louis Theroux spends time with an Oklahoma man who has bred and collected over 150 tigers, visits the woman who privately owns one of America's largest collections of chimpanzees, and finds himself in uncomfortably close contact with a number of big cats and dangerous primates.