THE owner of a Lothians zoo has said she is even more determined to raise the £80,000 needed to rescue three former circus bears after making a “heartbreaking” trip to see the trio for the first time.
Shirley Curran, who owns the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder with husband Brian, broke down in tears when she travelled to the temporary accommodation in Belgium, where Peggy, Carmen and Suzy are being held in cramped conditions.
The 48-year-old said last weekend’s visit to the holding centre in Genk had left her desperate to hit the £80,000 target needed to rehome the bears at Five Sisters.
She said: “It was heartbreaking to see them – I wanted to bring them home with me. They are lovely bears with great personalities; I spent hours watching them and they deserve and desperately need a proper purpose-built home.
“They are currently held in cramped conditions. Peggy is living in a prison cell with concrete floors and bars at the front.
“Carmen and Suzy are in their own holding pen, but Suzy is pacing round in a circle about 10ft by 10ft – the same size as the trailer she spent years in. It is so distressing to see.
“She walks in that circle constantly and it will take a lot of work to get her out of that habit.
“The Belgians are doing a great job but it is just a rescue centre. They are doing their best but the three bears all need to be rehomed as soon as possible.
“The quicker we get them over, the better. I hope everyone seeing the photos will give money and help us bring them to West Lothian as soon as possible.”
The bears, which were born in captivity, spent 20 years in a travelling circus, living in cramped cages. When the circus owner – who lived with the bears in Germany – retired, he took them to Belgium.
However, he became seriously ill and is now in hospital long-term – prompting the bears’ move to the temporary holding cage.
So far, the Five Sisters’ campaign has raised £25,678 towards the £80,000 target.
Construction of an enclosure at the zoo for the bears is under way and it is hoped that Suzy, Carmen and Peggy will be moved in by Christmas.
Mrs Curran, who was joined on the trip by zoo volunteer Eileen Boyle, said: “We have still got a long way to go with the fundraising, so we do need the public’s help.
“We really need to get the appeal going – we are desperate to raise the rest of the funds.
“It was quite emotional but really good to meet the bears and see what we are taking on.”
For details of the campaign, visit www.fivesisterszoo.co.uk.