EXCLUSIVE: Meet Syas - Horncastle’s new ROAR-sident

Horncastle News editor, John Fieldhouse, at the tiger enclosure.
Horncastle News editor, John Fieldhouse, at the tiger enclosure.

Horncastle News editor John Fieldhouse got up-close and personal with a new face in town this week - which just so happens to belong to a six year old Bengal tiger.

So, how did you start the working week.

The tiger enclosure.

The tiger enclosure.

Me? I came face-to-face with a magnificent six-year-old Bengal tiger called Syas.

He’s the latest - and biggest - attraction in a private collection of animals looked after by Horncastle businessman Andrew Riddel.

Mr Riddel, who runs a scrap metal and skip hire company, owns 46 acres of land around his home in Hemingby Lane.

Even with that amount of land, Syas is not what you’d expect to find in anyone’s back garden.

Syas relaxing in his enclosure.

Syas relaxing in his enclosure.

His arrival in Horncastle is down to Mr Riddel’s trusted links with the famous Chipperfield circus family.

Mr Riddel said: “I would like to confirm that Syas came from Thomas Chipperfield.

“I did not rescue Syas from Thomas. He was not being mistreated in any way.

“He came to me in great condition and was not suffering from being in a circus.

The tiger in Horncastle.

The tiger in Horncastle.

“The one and only reason the Chipperfields were looking to re-home Syas was that he and his brother had grown apart as they reached maturity,

“This is uncommon but

can happen.

“Thomas loves his animals so the decision to part with one of them was not made lightly.

Syas the tiger relaxes in his enclosure.

Syas the tiger relaxes in his enclosure.

“However, it was made with Syas’ best interest at heart.

“He ended up in my care because I have a clean animal welfare record and have no desire to use him in an inappropriate manner.

“The Chipperfields have been clear and honest with me regarding his needs as an individual, allowing me to provide the best possible home for him.

“As you have seen, Syas has absolutely everything he could possibly want.

“I would like to repeat this is not a case of rescuing a circus tiger.

“I have merely offered a home to one of Thomas Chipperfield’s animals and I would happily do the same again.”

Mr Riddel has spent a small fortune building an enclosure for Syas.

It has taken months of negotiations with various agencies, including East Lindsey District Council who are responsible for licenses for wild animals.

Mr Riddel explains there are 36 padlocks on the enclosure - with a high voltage running through wiring at the top of the fencing.

The enclosure is protected by a CCTV system used to keep a watch on inmates housed in some of Britain’s most notorious prisons.

Syas has special sleeping accommodation, a pool, rocks to climb on and even a waterfall.

He’s settled in quickly, no doubt helped by weather more akin to his native India than the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Syas has plenty to cast his beady eyes on.

Mr Riddel has more than 220 animals, including camels, zebras, wallabies, marmosets, lemurs and emus.

Keeping animals is, he says, a hobby.

He explains: “When we moved into this house about 12 years ago, I looked out of the window and said ‘one day, all I want to see are wild animals’.”

That dream began four years ago when he welcomed his first zebra.

He admits he never thought he’d be looking after a tiger.

He says: “I’m no expert but, because of my contacts, I know I can pick up a phone and there’s always someone at the other end who can help. You can’t buy knowledge and experience.”

Mr Riddel is set to increase the number of animals he looks after but is coy about releasing any details.

However, he did confirm work will soon start on a second enclosure.

And, nature will always play a part...two of his zebras are about to foal.

He says he gets immense satisfaction and enjoyment from the animals, including the 5am starts when he can be found picking up poo in the tiger enclosure.

It all comes at a cost. Don’t mention vets’ bills while the various animals get through two tons of fruit and vegetables a week.

Syas can devour 14-16lbs of meat a day, supplied by local butcher R and S Whisby. His diet is prime quality chicken and pork.

Mr Riddel stresses it is a ‘private collection’ but he is open minded about future plans.

He says: “Would people prefer me to do something like this or would they prefer me to shut everything down, sell the land for 2,000 new homes and walk away?”

He laughs at the suggestion he’s Horncastle’s Dr Doolittle but admits that coming up to his 50th birthday, he’s never been happier or more content.

An ELDC spokesman confirmed: “Our Deputy Environmental Health Manager has inspected the site with the council’s appointed vet. The inspection raised no concerns and there is a Dangerous and Wild Animal licence in place for the site.”