WORK on an £80,000 enclosure to rehome three mistreated circus bears in the Lothians has got under way as a massive fundraising campaign is launched.
Female bears Suzy, Carmen and Peggy are currently homeless in Belgium, where they have been languishing in a holding centre since March, and desperately need a new home to spend the rest of their lives in comfort.
The Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder has pledged to rescue and rehome the European brown bears, who range in age from 23 to 27 and have endured two decades of hardship in a travelling circus.
The zoo has now launched an £80,000 fundraising appeal to construct a new purpose-built enclosure for the trio, with work starting yesterday.
Zoo owner Brian Curran, 52, said: “We are so keen to try and do something to give them the chance to spend the rest of their lives in a good environment.
“We have always wanted to have bears at the zoo and we thought this would be perfect because we are rescuing bears that are needing rehomed – it fits the bill perfectly.”
The two-acre enclosure, which is around the size of a football park, will feature a heavily wooded area, a large pond, and plenty of trees and hiding places for the bears.
Suzy, Carmen and Peggy, who were born in captivity, have spent 20 years working for their owner in a travelling circus, living in horrifically cramped cages measuring just 10 sq m.
Suzy is so traumatised by the conditions that she still walks in small circles.
Mr Curran added: “Circus bears have not got a great life, they’re probably forced into doing things that don’t come naturally to them and they don’t get a lot of stimulation by way of natural environment.”
The animals have performed across Europe in countries including Germany, Holland, Austria and France.
When the circus owner retired, he took the bears to Belgium but became seriously ill and is now in hospital.
The bears are now holed up in a temporary holding cage. With the help of the public, the aim is to have them in their new enclosure at the zoo by Christmas.
The zoo has already raised £4000 through donation buckets and fundraising events.
Mr Curran added: “There’s a long way to go but it’s a start. We are determined to make it happen.”