Personality n

Giles with Maya, left, and with his bride Kathryn in Barbados

best part of 20 years. While out there, he met his first wife Kerri, with whom he has a 20-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. He also has a 23-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He and Kerri split up before he returned

to the UK, but shortly after coming back home, he met Kathryn at a networking event, and the two tied the knot in Barbados in December 2017. Giles’ three children were there alongside his two new stepsons, aged eight and six, and the family are now settled in Kent – and growing to love their new surroundings. “When I first came back, I lived on site

for a few months,” he explains. “Then I moved a little bit further afield to Hawkhurst. It’s only 15 minutes down the road and I love it here. “We’re in this beautiful part of the

country, for me it feels remote enough that there’s plenty of space, fresh air and there’s some amazing people as well. I love that there’s still a very rural community sense where I live and around here too. “They don’t call it the Garden of England for nothing. When I open the door I can literally go across the road and immediately I’m walking through fields, along some beautiful countryside and farming land. I’m starting to really appreciate where I live but also the natural beauty of the area.” At the Australia Zoo in Queensland, he

worked in close quarters with Steve Irwin, the famed Australian Crocodile Hunter. Irwin was, Giles says, a larger than life character, and what was seen of him on his many television shows was what you got from him in person, too. Irwin courted controversy at times, not least when holding his then one-

month-old son in one hand while feeding a crocodile with the other. Australia Zoo now sits on Steve Irwin Way, named in his honour after he was killed by a stingray in September 2006 while filming a show called Ocean’s Deadliest. “He was truly the most enthusiastic individual that I’ve ever come across in terms of wanting to make a difference, wanting to help animals, wanting to educate,” reflects Giles on his friend. “It was such a shock, it was a horrendous day when we lost him.” But how does Giles feel about the issue

of putting children in with animals? It got Irwin in hot water from some quarters as it did in another era with John Aspinall of Howletts and Port Lympne fame. “It’s a fine line in terms of, yes, all

of the children have been present when I’ve been hand rearing cats, but even though I form a friendship

Giles is no stranger to the spotlight, having starred in the BBC series Tigers About the House in his time in Australia. And he is set to be on the small screen again soon with another BBC documentary, this time about a young Jaguar cub named Maya. “Maya was born at another facility,” Giles said. “She’s special, as they all are, but she’s quite an unusual cat, she’s a melanistic Jaguar, so she’s black. She still has the usual rosettes that you would associate with a jaguar but like a black jaguar or a black leopard they are very much masked by her colouration.

and a bond with the individual as I think most people with the time and compassion could, you must never ever forget or take for granted or become complacent – they are still wild animals,” Giles insists. “They still have their instinct and

they are immensely powerful and, more to the point, they know how to use what they’re given. They have teeth and claws. I wouldn’t even trust a dog with a small child, let alone thinking my children would be all right just because they have been brought up around it. “There’s very defined timelines

where I put some parameters on what I do. I would never let any of my young children think it’s okay to go in with a big cat. You have to treat them exactly what they are – which is a wild animal.”

“The other facility felt that she wasn’t getting the necessary milk from mum, when they went in after a few days she was clearly showing signs of being dehydrated and quite lethargic and so we were called and I took her on when she was five days old and intensively hand reared her for three to four months, and then I got all of the keepers involved once I got over that initial part. “It’s been an incredible, challenging, exhausting journey. She’s a larger than life character and I think people are going to fall in love with her.”

Mid Kent Living 7

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