A TV wildlife expert who appeared alongside Alan Titchmarsh on his daytime chat show is being investigated over claims dozens of exotic animals in his care had been mistreated.
Police and RSPCA officers swooped on the newly built headquarters of Tropical Inc., in Dunhampton, near Worcester, in a dawn raid on Thursday and confiscated nearly 70 animals under the Animal Welfare Act.
The animals taken included meerkats, monkeys, an armadillo, coatis, genets, owls, parrots, snapping turtles, tortoises, snakes, a porcupine, Harris hawks, and cotton-top tamarins.
The firm, which teaches school children about tropical animals, is run by Stephen Rowlands.
The 31-year-old, from Oldbury, has made regular appearances on ITV1's Alan Titchmarsh Show where he has showed off his tortoises and reptiles.
His company's website says staff will educate people about how to care for their exotic pets.
The site states: "Our company aim is to educate all walks of life from nursery to university Students on the natural behaviour of all exotic animals, through fun and interactive presentations and displays.
"We also give advice to people on the welfare of their exotic pets and offer a good home to one's that need it.
"By encouraging people's natural curiosity, the secrets of environments such as the rainforest and desert we will take you on an almost magical journey."
But the new permanent base the company had set up in Dunhampton, was raided after concerns animals were being mistreated.
No arrests were made but all of the animals have been temporarily rehomed at specialist centres elsewhere in the UK while an investigation is carried out.
An RSPCA spokesman said: "Five RSPCA inspectors, two police, five other specialists and a specialist zoo vet attended an address in Worcester early Thursday morning and removed around 70 animals under suspicion of offences under the Animal Welfare Act.
"Among those taken were coatis, genets, an armadillo, owls, parrots, snapping turtles, tortoises, snakes, a porcupine, Harris hawks, meerkats and cotton-top tamarins.
"The police had applied for a warrant which was issued by the magistrate court. All of the animals have now been taken to specialist establishments pending the outcome of the investigation."
Glenn Arscott, education officer at Tropical Inc., said yesterday: "The premises in Dunhampton, which do belong to Tropical Inc., were raided on Thursday.
"Stephen was not arrested. We have been told not to say anything further."
As reported in your Worcester News at the time planning permission for the Dunhampton site was granted by Wychavon District Council in August despite concerns.
Some members of the planning committee expressed concern the site would exploit the animals for entertainment.
Speaking at the time, councillor Judy Pearce, said: "We are being told this will be an educational facility, but on the company's website it keeps on referring to corporate events and parties.
"That's not what I want to see animals doing.
"Alarm bells are ringing."