The Sore Bite

In The Earth Emperor’s Eye, Mother Nature personified casts a protective spell, “I circle our world with this trust and rod, against the sore stitch, against the sore bite, against the Grim Dread, against the great horror that is hateful to us all, and all evil that enters this land.”

A Sumatran tiger from the Howletts Wildlife Animal Park in Kent has had dental work to fix three broken front teeth.  Amir the tiger had to have the chipped teeth filled to prevent any pain occurring. It was a difficult procedure because a tiger’s tooth root can be six times longer than a humans.  Amir has now fully recovered.

Sumatran Tiger dental work

Howletts is home to two Sumatran tigers, two Siberian tigers and two Bengal tigers.  All are classed as endangered or critically endangered in the wild. The Howletts collection, which also includes the UKs largest herd of African elephants, is known for being unorthodox, for the encouragement of close personal relationships between staff and animals, and for their breeding of rare and endangered species.

However, the sore bite connexion is just the beginning. The real fascination, given recent watch stories linked to casinos,  is that Howletts Wild Animal Park was founded in the 1950’s by John Aspinall on proceeds from gambling.  The Earth Emperor keeps on delivering!

john aspinall

John Aspinall began his gambling career as a bookmaker at a time when the only legal gambling in the UK was at racecourses and dog tracks. There was no legal casino gambling of any kind, but he took part in illegal private gambling parties.  Aspinall targeted his events at the rich. Illegal gambling houses were defined then in British law as places where gambling had taken place more than three times. Aspinall rented quality flats and houses, never used them more than three times, and had his mother pay off police officers.

In 1958, John Aspinall lived at Howletts Zoo, but his mother forgot to pay off corrupt police officers, so they raided his game that night. He won the subsequent court case, the outcome of which is known as Aspinall’s Law.  In response, the Betting and Gaming Act 1960 was introduced which allowed commercial bingo halls and casinos to be set up under certain rules.  Aspinall also jointly set up the Claremont Club in Mayfair and was linked to gambling con known as ‘the Big Edge’. The scheme included marking the cards by bending them over a steel roller in a small mangle, and then repacking them.

John Aspinall was passionate about animals. The need for cash to fuel his zoos prompted him to return to running gambling clubs in London, and he set up two new successful ones in Knightsbridge and Mayfair. In 1983, he made $30 million from their sale, but a decade later he was in financial difficulties again, and in 1992 he set up yet another gambling spot, Aspinalls, presently run by his son.

Aspinall’s was the subject of two award-winning documentary films by Roy Deverell, Echo of the Wild and A Passion to Protect. Here’s an extract…

John died in June 2000.


John Aspinall’s memorial


I-Spy the Earth Emperor's Eye