IT is a fundraising effort which has been bearly believable.
A trio of mistreated circus bears are to be unveiled at a West Lothian zoo in just over a month after an appeal to save them from horrendous conditions in Belgium banked more than £56,000.
An announcement was made at the the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder this morning – on International Save Bears Day – to urge kind-hearted fundraisers to make one final push and help raise the remaining £23,486, which will pay for the cost of transporting the bears and making the finishing touches to their new home at the zoo.
The bears will leave their cramped holding centre in Belgium on March 29 to begin their 16-hour journey to the zoo. All going well, it is hoped that they will be unveiled to the public on March 31.
Five Sisters owner, Brian Curran, 52, said: “Everybody is getting really excited now and there’s a big sense that we are almost there. We are counting the days now.
“A few months ago we still had the winter in front of us and everything looked like ‘will this ever happen?’, but gradually we’ve got nearer and nearer. ”
Mr Curran added: “We have still got to pay for their transport costs, and a vet travelling with them, and we have still got work to do in their dens. Three big gates have to go on the main enclosure and roofs on the brick dens.”
In an attempt to raise funds, the zoo is offering visitors the chance to have their names inscribed on plaques that will be placed on the posts around the bears’ enclosure for £50.
Among the fundraisers to donate to the campaign, which started around five months ago, is Winchburgh Primary pupil Eva Eaglesham, seven, who has been collecting donations and raising funds through family and friends after learning of the bears’ plight in the Evening News. She will hold a car boot sale at the zoo on Saturday, from 10.30am.
Mr Curran hopes that an increase in visitor numbers following the bears’ arrival will cover the cost of their food and help the zoo to keep its admission prices the same.
The bears, born in captivity, spent 20 years in a travelling circus, living in cages measuring just ten metres square. Suzy still paces in circles as a result of the horrific conditions.
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 centre in Belgium.
Construction of their new home at the zoo will be completed by mid-March and it is hoped that the remainder of the funds will have been raised by then, otherwise Mr Curran will be left footing the bill.
To make a donation, visit www.fivesisterszoo.co.uk/prices/save-the-bears-donation.