Secret Scotland

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Appeal for the Five Sisters Zoo following fire disaster

Five Sisters logo

I have to admit that I among the many who have confessed never having heard of the Five Sisters Zoo at Polbeth in West Calder.

I rather lost interest in zoos after the animal activists managed to destroy Glasgow Zoo a few years ago. It was just along the road, and even though I visited places nearby, I never visited, although I was always going to do it “soon”. Family problems killed that plan for a few years, and the next time I wandered along, it was derelict… I had been so diverted with my own problems at the time, I did not even notice the closure. So my chance of a visit was lost. Such is life.

The Five Sisters made the news when a huge overnight fire completely destroyed the reptile house. Many animals perished in the fire, including iguanas, tortoises, meerkats, and their male otter. Some 50 firefighters attended, with six fire appliances and five specialists appliances were mobilised, including a turntable ladder which was used as a water-tower. They managed to  control the blaze, and prevent high overnight winds driving the fire onto nearby enclosures within the zoo. All those within the reptile house perished, including a large population of leaf-cutter ants, stick insects and other invertebrates, The zoo had 14 meerkats, all unaccounted, and two other animals two animals put down because of the severity of their injuries.

The remaining female otter is being cared for by vets.

A pair of African dwarf crocodiles also survived, after being discovered by firefighters under a pile of debris.

Via Fire-hit West Lothian zoo fighting for survival – News –

Major fire at Five Sisters zoo claims the lives of animals | The blaze at its height. | Galleries | News | STV

The owners are understandably upset by the loss, and the damage, and have launched an appeal for help to get the reptile house demolished and cleared as soon as possible, in order to get the zoo safe and open to visitors as soon as possible.

Significantly, the zoo operates as a charity, and is dependent on visitors and donation in order to maintain its operation. It is privately owned and run by Brian and Shirley Curran with the help of three full-time keepers. They also have help of a large team of dedicated volunteers. As a non-profit making organisation, any money is injected back into the Zoo to help with the animals upkeep, veterinary bills and maintenance of the enclosures.

Five Sisters Zoo Fire Fund

You can get an idea of what the zoo is, or was, like from this tagged collection of Flickr pics. Taken in August 2012, it will include a number of the zoo’s inhabitants which were lost in the fire:

Flickr: Ninian Reid’s stuff tagged with fivesisterszoo

If you’re like me, and are not very familiar with the area where the zoo is located, then this might help:

It is located about half a mile of the A71, outside of Polbeth, West Calder, only 10 minutes drive from the centre of Livingston. Half an hour from Edinburgh city centre, 45 minutes from Glasgow city centre and, 1 hour from Perth.

Lesley Coupar, of marketing and visitor services at the zoo, described the blaze as “the worst nightmare”.

She said: “We are devastated. It’s the worst nightmare. We’re in the business of rescuing animals, giving a safe haven to animals. To look now at the shell of the reptile house and everything gone from there, it’s just the worst tragedy ever. The owners are obviously distraught, as are we all. We’re all animal lovers.”

No humans were injured as a result of the fire. An investigation into the cause of the blaze will now take place.

The fire is not thought to be suspicious and it is understood that police are examining a heating system at the zoo, among other lines of enquiry.

Via Five Sisters Zoo: Thousands of pounds donated after fire kills animals | News | Edinburgh | STV


A glazing business based in Bathgate has offered to rebuild the reptile house, and offered whatever other help it can.

Five Sisters Zoo fire: Glazier offers to help rebuild reptile house

Five Sisters Zoo: Glazier Derrick Findlay offers to rebuild reptile house | News | Edinburgh | STV

Other companies have offered theirs support, but at the moment the zoo owners are still considering whether or not to reinstate the reptile house destroyed by the fire.


15/04/2013 Posted by | Appeal | , , , | 1 Comment


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