By Danny Baggott @Dan_Baggie
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Videographer / Director: Larry Rochefort
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Thom Johnson
For the last 27 years, 68-year-old Remy Demantes has owned a private rescue sanctuary for big cats, taking care of the injured animals and treating them as pets.
Residing in Ouzouer-sur-Loire, France, Remy fell in love with exotic animals in 1986 when he saw the close bond his friend had with his domesticated panther. Inspired by their relationship, Remy decided to build upon his current property and make sure his home was at the centre of his animals.
Fast-forward to 2018 and Remy could not imagine life without his beloved pets, spending hours each day hand-feeding them, taking them for walks and generally kissing and cuddling their furry coats.
Remy told Barcroft TV: “If you want to be close to the animals, you need to raise them since birth.
“I created this animal park 27 years ago. I ran a nightclub before and put on lots of shows.
“I invited an animal trainer in 1986, who had panthers. When I saw this panther which I could stroke, that had an effect on me, it moved me.
“It was this day when I first found the will to own, understand and save them from extinction.
“I told myself if I do that, there will be no more holidays – it would be a full time job.”
One of Remy’s white tigers weighs a colossal 47 stone – and if that wasn’t enough, he currently has another four tigers, a lion and a lioness to look after on his property.
Remy said: “These are animals that eat around five to seven kilograms of meat a day.
“Red meat, white meat, beef and things like that.
“And I’m alone in looking after my animals, I have no one helping me.”
Remy, however, admits this is a choice - he has had numerous volunteers in the past all wanting to help him take care of the animals and maintain the upkeep of the park.
But he has never been able to accept their offers due to the extreme danger that surrounds his job.
“There are lots of people that want to help me – but as it’s very dangerous, I am scared they might have an accident,” Remy said.
“You can never fully 100% guarantee that you’ll leave the cage or the park alive.
“But it’s exciting. That’s what I like – it’s an adrenaline rush. You need to understand their psychology. You need to know the animals practically by heart.
“You must never trust them 100% because that’s when you can get attacked easily.
“In 27 years, I’ve never had an accident. But it could happen any day.”
Whilst Remy now admits he will no longer get new animals due to his age – he is more than confident in his capabilities to provide full attention to the big cats in his current care.
He said: “With these animals here, I’m not scared of them.
“If I was scared, I wouldn’t be in the park with them.
“Given my age, I’m going to stop getting new animals because they live more than twenty years.
“I won’t be able to look after them with a Zimmer frame!
“But for now, it’s a privilege to be accepted by them.
“Being with these animals, it does me good.”