First person: 'I live with Britain's largest lizard'

Chris Weller, 62
Click to follow
The Independent Online

After getting Hector in 2000, I built a special pen for him in my bedroom. It is six by six feet, and is made up to keep him comfortable, with water pools to help it resemble his natural habitat. He has spots where he can curl up if he wants to. I hope he is content. He used to be a bit of a biter when I first got him. I have a separate area known as a "naughty pen" where I put him if he misbehaves. It makes him calm down. The thing is, he loves attention and gets excited. I took him to one of the Marriott hotels in London recently and he was on one of the suitcase trolleys being wheeled around. He was revelling in it. It's not good enough just to be out of the house.

I have always had animals here. I suppose it happened when mum and dad died back in 1989 and I inherited the property. I kept fish and decided to buy one or two other creatures like parrots. It went on from there.

I managed to get two crocodiles in 2000. It was a palaver to acquire them, and I managed to mix up what I had to do for my licence. I thought you got the crocodiles then the licence, not the other way around. So they ended up in a zoo in Portugal. After that, I retired from work and had more time to apply for a licence from the council.

I got my current croc Caesar, a three-year-old, from a dealer in Essex in 2007. I just brought him home in a sack. He was small when I got him but as he grew bigger, he became more difficult. We had one or two disagreements because he didn't like people standing up over him, which is understandable. He got used to it, and is well trained now. I sit down on the ground and call him and tap the floor and he comes over and I stroke him. I feed him fish, rats, and chicks which I buy deep frozen and then heat up.

A lot of the neighbours are used to the animals by now. To begin with, maybe some of them were a bit scared. Then they realised they weren't as bad as they first thought. These guys have been in captivity for a long time. Just look at Hector. He had a nasty bite when I first got him – he could have your arm off, no problem. He bit me a couple of times – it was because he didn't like being picked up. Now, when I want him out of his pen, I put a net into it and he swims into it. I pick him up and then he's out. There's a lot of trust involved in our relationship. I feed him, and he's happy with that. This started off as a nice little hobby, and then it took over my whole life really. We've got to live side by side with reptiles. They've been here longer than us and they probably will be here long after we have gone.