Zoo trio bearing up after rescue drive hit by delay

Appeal: Joanna Lumley is backing the drive to bring the bears, including Carmen, above, to the Five Sisters Zoo
Appeal: Joanna Lumley is backing the drive to bring the bears, including Carmen, above, to the Five Sisters Zoo
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A CAMPAIGN to rescue three mistreated circus bears has failed to save the trio in time for Christmas despite receiving a cash boost from actress Joanna Lumley.

The appeal, spearheaded by the Five Sisters Zoo in West Calder, to save Suzy, Carmen and Peggy from horrendous conditions in Belgium has raised almost £50,000 in around four months.

However, a total of £80,000 is needed to transport and rehome the bears from a temporary holding to a specially-built enclosure at the zoo.

Zoo owner Brian Curran had hoped to have the bears in their new home before Christmas but is now aiming to bring them to the Five Sisters early next year.

The 53-year-old from West Calder, who said he was grateful for the public’s support in raising around £47,000 so far, said: “I’m disappointed that we didn’t make the target for Christmas but we hope to have the bears here by the start of March. The Belgian government are extending the period that they’re willing to keep the bears for us by around two months.

“That will give us a bit more time after the holidays to do more fundraising campaigns. We’re planning a big fun weekend during the school holidays in February which will be the final push for the bear appeal.”

The bears, who were born in captivity, spent 20 years in a travelling circus, living in cages measuring just ten metres square. When the circus owner retired he kept the bears, however he became ill and is now in hospital long-term, prompting the bears’ move to the temporary holding centre.

Mr Curran added: “We’re desperate to get them here but there’s no magic wand to make it happen. People are hard up as it is. Rescuing bears is not high on people’s priority list.”

Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley sent a cheque for £100 to the zoo and a letter showing her support for the appeal earlier this month.

“We got really excited when we heard that the campaign had got as far as her – we’re very grateful again,” said Mr Curran.

Construction of the bears’ new home at the zoo is well under way, courtesy of the donations that have already come in.

Among the fundraisers to donate to the campaign is Winchburgh Primary pupil Eva Eaglesham, who recently handed over more than £782.

Eva has been collecting donations and raising funds through family and friends after learning of the bears’ plight in the Evening News.

The appeal has also been backed by celebrities, including Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher and Coronation Street actress Kate Ford.

To make a donation, visit www.fivesisterszoo.co.uk/prices/save-the-bears-donation