THREE years ago a meerkat pair survived a devastating blaze at Five Sisters Zoo which claimed the lives of all 11 of their cubs.
Lucky and her partner Phoenix were found huddled in a tunnel – burnt, terrified and suffering from smoke inhalation.
And they have not only made a full recovery but replenished their family to pre-fire numbers after welcoming four more pups to their growing brood.
The fabulous foursome were born about three weeks ago but have only recently been spotted above ground after becoming bold enough to emerge from the comfort of their burrow under the watchful eyes of their proud parents. It is thought that the latest arrivals are the breeding pair’s fifth litter since the fire destroyed the reptile enclosure and killed around 47 other species.
Lesley Coupar, from the West Calder zoo, said: “Lucky and Phoenix have been through an absolute nightmare. They were both injured and have come through it. We found them in the tunnel trying to get out. They survived although they were burned.
This really is a family that has risen from the ashes and it is great to hear the pitter-patter of tiny paws once more.Lesley Coupar
“And it is great news that the family is back to full strength after the ordeal. They are very special. They are all such characters – always out and about – and staff are very fond of them. This really is a family that has risen from the ashes and it is great to hear the pitter-patter of tiny paws once more.”
Speaking at the time of the rescue, zookeeper Lynn McKechnie said she had seen a little black face poking above the rubble, barking and wailing and looked severely burned.
And poignantly, the current meerkat enclosure is built on the site of the former reptile house which was completely gutted in the blaze and bore the brunt of the fire damage.
More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at its height but could do nothing to stop it killing an otter and a colony of half a million leaf cutter ants, as well as snakes, lizards and tortoises. Heartbroken staff put their emotions aside during the clean-up operation to ensure the zoo had partially reopened just over a week later.
A full investigation into the cause of the blaze prove inconclusive, though it was not thought to be suspicious.
Donations were later added to an insurance payout, helping the zoo to rise from the ashes.
Meanwhile, the zoo’s nature trail has also seen some more unexpected new arrivals in recent weeks, with a Barbary sheep and a Muntjac Deer giving birth one day apart.
The animals came to the zoo from elsewhere and staff did not realise two of the animals were pregnant until months later.
In recent days the zoo has also seen the arrival of several baby geckos and the hatching of an eagle-owl chick.