Comment: Lions can be sure of a warm welcome

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GANDHI once said the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. If the way ordinary people and businesses have rallied to help a West Lothian zoo offer a new beginning for four mistreated former circus lions is anything to go by, Scotland can hold its head high.

Until recently, Simba, Sangaka, Mustafa and Tiny have known little of human kindness. It is believed they were born in captivity and sold to a French circus at a young age. Their owners no doubt made a handsome profit from the animals, but failed to care for them. When the circus was performing in the Belgian city of Luik last year, officials seized them and discovered they had no manes as a result of being castrated.

It was a sad story and one which upset many. But two people, Brian and Shirley Curran, resolved to make a difference. The owners of Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, they launched a campaign to help build a two-acre enclosure for the lions in the hope they might find a better life in Scotland.

The plans were nothing if not bold. With months of planning and construction work required, the £150,000 target looked 
ambitious. But once word got out, people displayed an indomitable will to help.

Some held skydives and went on sponsored walks, runs and cycles. Others held cake sales or even had their hair cut as part of the fundraising drive. Many local companies supplied materials used to build the enclosure either free or at a reduced cost.

From the smallest gesture to the largest, all counted.

Against all the odds, thousands of people have helped secure a safe and happy future for four poor animals that have known only hardship and suffering. When the lions arrive in Scotland today, they can be sure of a warm welcome to their new home. The cast of thousands who helped make it possible deserve the utmost praise.