Alan Dein presents documentaries about modern Britain. BBC Radio 4’s critically acclaimed…
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In a rain sodden valley, close to the fresh winds of the Irish Sea, a leopard marches back and forth through the mud. Close by, capuchin monkeys chuckle as they cling to the bars, and in the warmth of a dark glass tank, a 14 foot python is being moved for feeding.
These are unwanted animals - some born in captivity, some abandoned and some just too big for their owners to keep. They've all found a home with Jean and Alan Mumbray, at The Animalarium, a small private zoo close to the fishing village of Borth, west Wales.
When Jean and Alan bought the property, they were given the keys by the previous owner, who left without a backward glance - throwing them into the world of zoo keeping without training or experience. 12 years later, full of enthusiasm for the place they have created and made their own, they are putting the zoo up for sale.
It will be a hard move to make. Jean has a close relationship with many of the creatures - such as the lynx she calls 'Baby', and who will sit on her shoulder and purr as she strokes him fondly.
Jean and Alan have also fostered 42 children over the past 25 years.
"Animals for love - fostering for income".
They specialised in difficult teenagers - not unlike the 'naughty monkeys' that they have as pets. These are the children most unlikely to find foster homes - but Jean actually prefers them.
'They're more independent, more idealistic, more interesting." She says, "And they don't want love or cuddles. They want respect, and they want approval."
As the zoo goes up for sale, Alan Dein visits in the depths of Winter, to find out why the couple found themselves drawn to both professions - fostering and zoo keeping.
What has the rearing of disturbed children taught them? Can they find the right people to take over their family of animals?
Producer: Sara Jane Hall.
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