Heartbroken keeper launches fundraiser in memory of bear who died at Five Sisters Zoo

Henk the bear died suddenly last week.

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 11:45 am
Mr Curran with Henk the bear.

The devastated keeper of a brown bear who died at Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian last week has launched a fundraiser for a bear rescue charity in his name.

Head of Carnivores Gary Curran, 25, was the main keeper for Henk the bear.

“It was really hard to take, especially as he’d had such a hard start in life,” he said.

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Gary Curran and his mother Shirley, who part-owns the zoo.

“Given what he had been through I had hoped he would have a long and happy life with us.”

Mr Curran has set up a fundraiser in Henk’s name for Bears Albania, the animal rescue charity which helped to save Henk and his sister Eso from poachers in 2017.

The cubs, who were most likely poached from the wild after their mother was killed, were kept for several years in ‘horrendous’ conditions in North Albania, Mr Curran said.

They were kept in a small cage outside a roadside restaurant in a remote area, and were starved of food with only puddle water to drink.

The cubs were seized by Bears Albania and reached Five Sisters Zoo in 2018.

Henk settled in easily and soon became a firm favourite with visitors, many of whom have posted on social media to express their sadness at Henk’s death.

The bear also claimed a place in the heart of Mr Curran, who has been working at the Zoo owned by his family for six years.

“He was a real character, everyone who met him absolutely loved him,” he said.

“We really shared a bond, he was my best friend.”

The five-year-old bear was given specialist care by a vet after developing a ‘sudden illness’, but died in his sleep on the night of Wednesday 29 January.

A spokesperson for the zoo said at the time: “We are all very sad, and awaiting the results of a detailed external post-mortem to understand things better. He will be sorely missed by everyone at Five Sisters Zoo.”

In a bid to bring something good out of the tragedy, Mr Curran set up a fundraiser for £1000 to give other bears the second chance at life that Henk and Eso had.

But fans of the zoo were so quick to donate that he soon raised the target to £2,500.

The current total is £1,800.

“I’ve been blown away by the generosity of everyone,” he said.

“Henk loved nothing more than playing with his sister and exploring his large woodland enclosure.

“Without the organisations who carried out their rescue, Henk and Eso would never have had the opportunity to be bears and do the things that bears do.

“So if the money raised could make even the slightest difference to other bears living in similar circumstances then that would make me very happy.”

He added: “Even a small bit of money would make a difference, there are a lot of bears out there who need help.”

A spokesperson for Bears Albania wrote on Facebook: “Good bye Henk. We are heartbroken to see you go but find solace knowing that you left this world free, far away from the cage that once was your home.”