Zoo couple’s massive personal commitment to animal rescue - Steve Cardownie
When I was speaking to the joint owners of the zoo, Brian and Shirley Curran, I was curious about Brian’s assertion that the zoo was more a rescue centre and that the public display of the animals in their care was primarily to raise funds in order that they could continue with their rescue work.
A landscape gardener to trade, Brian and his wife Shirley purchased the 2.5 acres of land ostensibly to open a garden centre but which became the Five Sisters Zoo many years later. They were granted a zoo licence in 2005 after informing the council that they wanted to display the animals in their care. Although initially confined to rehoming pets and unwanted animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, pigs and goats it has now grown to housing over 160 different species.
Brian told me that in his early childhood he was regularly finding stricken and injured animals or birds which he used to take home, nurse them back to health, and then release them.
He said: “I got such a rewarding feeling when these animals were well enough to be released. I would never have believed that those experiences would lead me to the high-profile rescue and rehoming of bears, lions and wolves to name just a few.”
He went on to say that: “The only sad fact is that the animals we now rescue could never be released into the wild again, but we do our very best to give all our animals the very best of care and living conditions.”
The rescue centre operates as a zoo “in order to bring in the necessary finance to survive and allow us to carry on with the rescue and conservation work that we are currently doing”.
The zoo needs to bring in around £50,000 a week just to break even but this summer’s visitor numbers have been well down on previous years leaving the zoo with no option but to explore other avenues of revenue generation. Brian has continued to landscape private gardens, selling Christmas trees and other gardening products, all in an effort to increase the income necessary for the zoo’s very survival.
As work continues on the new bear enclosure for Kuzya, who is to arrive sometime later this month, Brian is in the unwelcome position of appealing for more donations and the use of his gardening services which “will be greatly appreciated and help with our ongoing animal rescue service”.
The zoo published a book in 2018 which told their story, illustrated with pictures of their animals and inside which Brian and Shirley penned an open letter.
In it they said: “With no external funding we have relied on entrance fees and our own personal commitment to undertake developments, on a couple of occasions we came close to crisis point.”
That “personal commitment” has come at a great financial cost – for that and their rescue work Brian and Shirley fully deserve to succeed!