THE UK’s first crocodile zoo could be built in West Oxfordshire.
Shaun Foggett — who keeps 24 crocodiles and alligators, which grow up to 4m long, at his Witney home — is looking to buy enough land to fulfil his dream.
He has set up website crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk to help with his search.
The 30-year-old joiner has been saving for the past two years, and has secured much of the £100,000 start-up-costs.
Mr Foggett said: “I have got the largest collection of crocodiles in the UK.
The crocodile zoo will be the first in the country, there is nothing else in the UK like it.
“Most places just carry one species of crocodile as they are not set up to handle anymore.”
He needs about 5,000 sqft, or more, to set up the enclosures, which will house three of the rarest crocodiles in the world. He said: “I have written to quite a lot of farmers and some of the bigger estates in and around the Witney area.
“Lots of people have been interested, but with not enough room.”
Mr Foggett lives with fiancee Lisa Green, 29, and children Billy, six, Louie, four, and eight-month-old Shania.
He keeps his unusual pets in outbuildings in the garden of his home in Bibury Close.
He said: “To be honest, the crocodiles have always been around since before the children were born, so it’s very normal to them.
“They show a bit of interest, but there is not a lot they can help me with because of the nature of the animals.
“The children like to go in and look at them, but that’s as far as it goes really.”
Miss Green, who owns Reids Hair Salon, in Witney, helps out.
Mr Foggett said: “She is not into crocodiles like I am, but she supports me all the way.”
He added: “The neighbours all know the crocodiles are there, but they have never wanted to come around and see them.”
He estimates he spends £8,000 a year on keeping the cold-blooded animals at a constant temperature of about 25 degrees Celsius, feeding them a diet of rodents and fish.
Mr Foggett said: “It is not cheap to keep these animals, especially as they need to be heated all the year around. I am putting my all into it.
“Each enclosure costs about £1,000 or more to build.” He has been asked to create a crocodile park near London, but wants to stay in Witney, where he grew up. Mr Foggett has successfully bred 15 baby West African dwarf crocodiles — the first private breeding of the species. Five of these have gone to new homes, while the remaining ten will be part of the zoo.
He also keeps three of the five most endangered species — black caiman, which can grow up to 4m long, the 3.5m-long Cuban crocodiles, and a Chinese alligator, which reaches lengths of 1.8m.
Mr Foggett said: “Chinese alligators are thought to be the most endangered crocodile species, with numbers of around 200 left in the wild. That is going to be the biggest thing with the crocodile park, to do all sorts of work with various conservation projects around the world and try to save some of the species that are close to being wiped out.”
Mr Foggett has kept reptiles since the age of 17. He started his crocodile and alligator collection, which included applying for a dangerous animals licence, eight years ago with a Chinese alligator.
He said: “This is what I want to do for a living, and just be involved and just put my little bit in as far as these animals are concerned.
“It’s also about educating people. People think these animals lie in rivers waiting to attack the next human walking past, but there is a lot more to them.”
To help Mr Foggett with his search for land, visit crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk, or email shaun.foggett @crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk