Big cat enthusiast 'will be missed'

PUBLISHED: 09:49 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 21:45 26 October 2009

Pete James with his wife Jackie and one of his cats

Pete James with his wife Jackie and one of his cats

A BIG cat enthusiast who died after a long-term illness has been described as a passionate and likeable man by his widow. Pete James, 68, had ferociously fought to save the near-extinct clouded leopard, breeding them at his home in Willow Walk in Welwyn

A BIG cat enthusiast who died after a long-term illness has been described as a "passionate and likeable man" by his widow.

Pete James, 68, had ferociously fought to save the near-extinct clouded leopard, breeding them at his home in Willow Walk in Welwyn

However, he died at home on January 2 almost a year on from being diagnosed with the paralysing Motor Neurone Disease.

Widow Jackie, 44, remembered her husband as a "lovely, funny man who had no enemies".

She said: "He loved being outside and couldn't stand being inside and that is why having the disease was so hard for him because he loved his animals."

Pete was born in Hackney, London, in July 1939 and developed an early love for big cats when his father took him to see Tarzan at the cinema.

At the age of 11 he moved to St Albans before going on to breed champion German shepherds.

In 1983 he moved to Willow Walk and seven years later achieved his long-term goal of buying a pair of cats from America to breed.

But it was in 2000 that he made his "big dream" a reality and became only the second person in mainland UK to breed clouded leopards.

In September 2005 he married Jackie at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, on the platform above the big cats, after meeting her in 1998.

"It was the most amazing day of my life and it was so right to do it there," said Jackie.

"That is why we got on so well we used to travel the world going to zoos and we both loved it.

"He would tell people in the zoos that we visited if he thought they were doing things wrong.

"He cared so much about the cats and all animals."

Over 300 people attended his funeral at Harwood Park crematorium in Stevenage last Friday , including his children Karen, 43 and Dean, 41, from a previous marriage.

"It just shows how much he was liked. We're really going to miss him," added Jackie.

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