THE Chinese inhabitants of Edinburgh zoo may have been grabbing all the limelight but Tian Tian and Yang Guang be warned – there are three new bears on the scene.
A trio of mistreated circus bears has finally arrived at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian after months of fundraising to save them from a life of misery in a holding pen in Belgium.
The European brown bears were unveiled to the public for the first time yesterday, much to the delight of zoo owners Brian Curran and his wife Shirley.
The couple launched an £80,000 fundraising appeal last August to build a new home for Suzy, Carmen and Peggy at the West Calder zoo, and to pay for the cost of transporting the bears.
However, despite overwhelming support from the public and celebrities – which helped to raise almost £61,000 – they are nearly £20,000 short of their target and are now left footing the bill themselves.
But Mr Curran said: “It doesn’t matter, the bears are here and hopefully we will bring more people in to see them. If anybody wanted to contribute towards their ongoing welfare we won’t turn anything down, but we’re not going to the public asking for more funds.”
The 52-year-old added: “We are delighted and relieved to finally have the bears here. It’s been a long wait for us, so to see it happen is quite emotional.”
The bears’ specially-built sanctuary at Five Sisters, complete with a waterfall and indoor and outdoor enclosures, is a far cry from their previous life in a travelling circus, where they spent 20 years living in cages measuring just ten metres squared. Suzy still paces in circles as a result of the conditions.
The ongoing cost of caring for the bears will be around £20,000 per year. Mr Curran hopes an increase in visitor numbers will cover the cost.
The bears, who were born in captivity and are aged from 23 to 27, left Belgium at 8am on Thursday morning to begin the 16-hour journey by lorry.
Mr Curran added: “We cannot thank everyone enough and look forward to offering the bears the safe sanctuary they deserve.”
The appeal has been backed by celebrities, including Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher and actress Joanna Lumley.