Calls are growing for World Animal Day to become an annual event in Edinburgh

Wojtek - dubbed the "Soldier Bear" - was adopted by Polish troops and helped them carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Wojtek - dubbed the "Soldier Bear" - was adopted by Polish troops and helped them carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
0
Have your say

From leading figures in the Enlightenment and science to modern day authors and artists, the Capital is always willing to celebrate the achievements of its esteemed residents.

But what about those with four legs rather than two?

The Statue of Bum the dog in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Bum was a dog in San Diego California with a story like Greyfriars Bobby.

The Statue of Bum the dog in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Bum was a dog in San Diego California with a story like Greyfriars Bobby.

Forget Robert Louis Stevenson Day, calls are now growing to make World Animal Day an annual fixture in Edinburgh’s civic calendar and the chance to celebrate everyone from Sir Nils Olav the king penguin by way of Greyfriars Bobby and Wojtek, the beer-drinking army bear, to Dolly the Sheep.

It comes as people gather today at the Wojtek statue in Princes Street Gardens to mark the occasion.

The event, sponsored by Scotmid and the Wojtek Memorial Fund, is set to be attended by dignatries including the Lord Provost, the Polish Consul General for Scotland and Chaplain to the Castle Neil Gardner. .

World Animal Day was last celebrated in the city two years ago at the monument to Bum the Dog in Princes Street Gardens.

But event organiser George Robinson wants to see to see the international day of action for animal welfare officially marked in the city every year.

He said: “The ceremony could be held at Greyfriars in 2017 if the Lord Provost decides to make it an annual civic event. This year’s event is to focus the public’s attention on World Animal Day which is a global event.

“Wojtek served with 22nd Artillery Supply Company, Polish II Army Corps.

“So this event will help to show support for the Polish community. Without the help of the Poles and the Free French, the UK could have been occupied during World War II.”

And 90-year-old veteran Ludwik Jaszczur, who served alongside Wojtek in the Battle of Monte Cassino and lives in Bruntsfield, will be at the event. “I will be there in my Polish uniform with a big flag,” he said.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “The story of Edinburgh’s adopted bear is a cherished one and I’m looking forward to visiting his statue.

“Edinburgh boasts many memorials and artworks depicting our four-footed friends, from the Lion of Scotland to Greyfriars Bobby and the giraffe sculptures at the Omni Centre. These statues remind us that great animals can and should be immortalised and celebrated too.

“World Animal Day presents an opportunity for everyone who cares about animals to raise awareness of animal issues.”

World Animal Day is celebrated annually on October 4, the feast day of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.

Councillor Steve Burgess, convener of the Greens, added: “Edinburgh is lucky to be home to a wide range of wild animals.

“Many people have much-loved companion animals. And, of course, we have landmark institutions like Gorgie Farm and the zoo. So it does seem like Edinburgh is very much an animal city. If that’s the case, maybe we need to use World Animal Day as an opportunity to agree a city-wide animal welfare policy, to ensure that ours is a city where people behave responsibly towards them.”