Woman lives with 250 animals including monkeys, meerkats and an alligator

Animal lover Pam Mansfield cares for 250 creatures great and small after a passion triggered by a chance encounter in a pet shop.

Pam counts abandoned monkeys, meerkats and even an alligator called George among her menagerie.

That’s not to mention the ocelot, owls, lizards and snakes.

It all started when she and her late husband Mel witnessed a man trying to return a snake more than 40 years ago.

Pam, 66, explained: “This chap had bought a snake, but his wife wouldn’t let him take it into the house.

“He couldn’t get a refund so said he would drown it. We couldn’t let that happen, so we offered him £10.

“We didn’t have the money, so had to borrow it, and that’s how it all began.”

Pam and Mel took the Burmese Python home, converted their sideboard into a cage and kept the snake in their bedroom.

Once word spread that they were rehoming animals, more and more turned up on their doorstep.

The couple moved house several times to accommodate the growing brood at their Exotic Pet Refuge in Deeping St James, Lincs.

It became a registered charity in 1984 as Pam and Mel provided a home to thousands of critters who have been mistreated, injured or abandoned.

Mel died 14 years ago but Pam’s dedicated efforts go on. Many of the creatures stay for life but others, once fully recovered, are returned to their natural habitat.

As well providing TLC, Pam also fundraises tirelessly to cover the sanctuary’s £80,000-a-year costs. She holds six open days a year, including one this month.

Although she doesn’t have a favourite, Pam is particularly fond of two animals she has hand-reared – her 27-year-old eagle owl Thor and baby spider monkey Stephie, who has the run of her house too.

Pam adds: “The refuge is not a zoo – to me it’s more important to be a sanctuary. We like it this way, not having people staring at the animals all the time. Keeping it this way means a lot to us all.”

  • Next open day is May 20. See exoticpetrefuge.org.uk for details.

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