Community rallies round stricken zoo

170413  Five sisters zoo fire damage.

170413 Five sisters zoo fire damage.

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over £20,000 has flooded in after fire destroyed part of the Five Sisters Zoo in Polbeth killing reptiles, meerkats and an otter.

Around 50 firefighters fought the blaze that ripped through the corrugated iron reptile house around 3.50am on Sunday, killing 48 reptiles, including snakes and lizards as well as turtles, 
tortoises, 11 meerkats and an ant colony.

The non-profit zoo that looks after rescued animals opened in 2005 and staff were distraught this week.

Lesley Coupar at Five Sisters Zoo said: “We are devastated. Last year the zoo rescued three circus bears, after £80,000 was raised from donations, and visitor numbers increased to 96,000, so we have been doing really well.

“A lot of work was put into the reptile house to get it right for Easter. It’s heartbreaking and absolutely tragic.”

Despite the devastation, a pair of dwarf crocodiles, a female otter and two meerkats survivied, and Goldie, the zoo’s 14ft albino Burmese python was recently moved out of the reptile house so escaped the blaze. But zoo owners Shirley and Brian Curran have been bowled over by the wave of community support since the disaster.

Lesley added: “We have been overwhelmed. On Monday we were constantly 
answering phone calls from people wanting to give donations and our website couldn’t handle the traffic.

‘‘We have set up a special fire fund which has raised £20,000 since Sunday - it’s been amazing.”

There have also been 
numerous offers of free 
labour and materials from local glaziers and joiners.

Anne Wilson of Millgate, Winchburgh, is campaigning for a Dress Down Day across West Lothian schools to raise funds, and said: “Kids love going to the zoo and this is a way that they can do something to help.

‘‘You feel even more 
towards the animals because they have been rescued. This is a good way to raise funds without parents feeling they have to fork out a lot of 
money.”

The zoo’s tool shed was also destroyed, but B&Q is donating tools, Sainsbury’s is doing a fundraising bagpack and local Scouts have volunteered to help with the clean up.

Following the surge of community spirit, the owners now hope to reopen on Saturday, April 27, and are planning a memorial area within the zoo to dedicate to all the animals lost.

No people were injured in the blaze, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is still investigating the cause, focusing on the reptile house heating system.