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TOUGH TO BEAR; CARING ZOO CHIEFS IN BID TO GIVE CAGED CREATURES A NEW LIFE IN SCOTLAND Couple's pounds 80k campaign to rescue circus animals.

Byline: Annie Brown

SUZY CARMEN PEGGY A SCOTTISH zoo has launched a campaign to rescue three circus bears from Belgium and rehouse them in a specially-built wooded enclosure.

Bosses at the Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian are trying to raise pounds 80,000 to bring the three female bears to the UK Suzy, Carmen and Peggy are currently homeless, languishing in a holding centre in Belgium after their owner became ill.

They spent much of their life living in a cramped circus lorry, in a space measuring just 10m square, and Suzy was so traumatised that even now she walks round in tiny circles.

Five Sisters is privately owned and run by Brian and Shirley Curran, who are determined to give the bears a new life and a freedom they have never experienced before in two acres of lush woodland.

Brian said: "All we want to do is give the bears the life they deserve. We have dedicated our lives to the zoo and rehousing animals that otherwise would probably be destroyed.

"We really don't know what will happen to the bears if we don't take them but we are determined that we will help them."

They are in small enclosures at an animal sanctuary in Belgium. Despite it being an emergency centre, they have already been there for five months.

The bears were put in a temporary cage after their owner fell ill but desperately need a new home to spend the rest of their lives in comfort.

Five Sisters' aim is to have the trio in the woodland by Christmas.

"I feel that if you are going to run a zoo, it should be housed with animals that are currently living in bad conditions," said Brian "We want to take animals that have had a poor life and aim to give them a better one."

All three bears were born in captivity and are now in their 20s. Brian said: "We have always had a soft spot for bears. We were on holiday in Bulgaria a few years ago and were shocked by how the street bears and dancing bears were treated.

"They are incredible creatures and it is terrible to see them treated badly.

"The bears in Belgium are crying out for help and we have the perfect space for them. We just need financial help to get them here."

Five Sisters was established in 2005 and grew from having rescued animals like rabbits and guinea pigs to the 100 different species it now has.

The couple have never made a profit from the zoo and have put their home on the line a couple of times to enable it to keep going.

"We have been used to challenges since day one of the zoo but this is the biggest we have faced so far," said Brian.

"The whole point is to rescue the bears and that's the only aim we have. If we could do it on our own we would but we need help."

They are also asking people to volunteer their labour to help build the enclosure, the paths around it as well as constructing a pond.

Douglas Richardson at the Highland Wildlife Park is a renowned bear expert and has been giving them advice.

Matthew Ford of the Specialist Wildlife Organisation is helping organise rehousing the bears.

The company takes non-domestic animals such as elephants, monkeys and snakes and rehouses them, predominantly in zoos.

Matthew said: "They have lived in tiny circus lorries and being confined in that space for the last 20 years or more, has been awful for them."

At Five Sisters the bears will have trees, grass to walk on, soil to dig in and water to splash around in.

Matthew said: "They won't have experienced any of that living in a square box. This will be a world away been living."

from the way they have iving."

There re is no other bear sanctuary space in Europe and Matthew said: "The Five Sisters is the knight in shining armour that has come in to help.

"If they didn't offer the space, the bears would be staying in their limited facilities for more than a year."

The bears have all been working and are used to people but are certainly not domesticated.

a The Five Sisters proposes to give them space as near to their natural habitat as possible and will scatter their food to simulate their hunting conditions.

Matthew said: "A of these thing will he All things help To the rescue J Brian w To the rescue J Br Bria ia ian enrich the bears' lives and help to keep them busy."

The enclosure will have a standard eight-foot high bear fence with a three-foot tall electrified wire fence inside.

There will be elevated positions where the general public can view them, but the bears will also have plenty of places where they can retreat and hide.

? Send cheques made payable to Circus Bear Rescue Fund to: Five Sisters Zoo, Gavieside, West Calder, West Lothian EH55 8PT.

Bank account details: Royal Bank of Scotland, sort code: 832803 account no: 00266061.

Paypal: via the zoo's website - users simply log on to their Paypal account and click donate, or email which links to the Zoo's bank account.


REFUGE J Above and right, Five Sisters owner Brian Curran and marketing chief Lesley Coupar at the site proposed to house the three Belgium circus bears. Suzy being fed at the sanctuary, below
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Aug 19, 2011
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