Circus bears rescue drive raises £25k

Circus bear Peggy
Circus bear Peggy
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A CAMPAIGN to rescue three former circus bears and bring them to a local zoo has raised more than £25,000.

Support has been pouring in for the campaign by the Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian, with Coronation Street star Kate Ford, who plays Tracy Barlow, appearing at a fund-raising event later this month.

Bosses at the zoo said work was already well under way to create an enclosure for the bears, who are languishing in a holding centre in Belgium.

Suzy, Carmen and Peggy spent much of their life living in cramped cages. The zoo hopes to raise £80,000 to bring the bears from Belgium and rehouse them at their facilities. Staff were travelling to Belgium over the weekend to see the bears for the first time and make plans for transportation.

The work has been possible thanks to donations from local businesses also offering materials and equipment to help build the enclosure. So far the appeal has raised £25,678.

Robert Steel, an engineering manager from Scotland Gas Networks, organised an overnight stay in the zoo and raised more than £500.

He said: “A good night was had by all and we were just so happy to help with the rescue of these poor bears. These bears have had a terrible life and it would be great for them to come to Scotland and live out the rest of their lives in comfort.”

A fundraising event at the Livingston Designer Outlet raised £598 for the appeal, and the St John’s Hospital Xray Department handed over £250.Zoo owner Brian Curran, 52, said: “The support has been incredible, and we have had a lot of messages from celebrities. We were all delighted when Kate agreed to come and lend her support to our fundraising week in October, and now we just want to push on so we can get the bears here as quickly as possible, because the conditions they live in at the moment are not great,

“We are travelling over to see them at the holding cages, to get a better idea of what they need, but work is already well under way in the enclosure thanks to the generosity of local businesses. A lot will depend on the weather, as that could cause delays to the work, but if it stays fairly clear then I am hopeful we will have everything in place to get them here before Christmas”

The two-acre enclosure will feature a heavily wooded area, a pond and plenty of trees and hiding places for the bears.

Suzy, Carmen and Peggy were born in captivity, and spent 20 years working for their owner in a travelling circus, living in horrifically cramped cages measuring just 10sq m. Suzy was so traumatised by the conditions that she still walks in small circles.

The bears are now holed up in a temporary holding cage.

A sponsored walk across the Forth Road Bridge in aid of the appeal will be held on October 30, while the zoo will hold a fundraising activity weekend on October 15 and 16. Proud Mary will play a fundraising gig at Loganlee Miners Club, Addiewell on October 15.

For details of the campaignsee www.fivesisterszoo.co.uk.

gedwards@edinburghnews.com