INFERNO AT THE ZOO; Otter, MEERKATS, Snakes, IGUANAs, Ant Stick Insects.", Crickets, Colony, All Perished Bats. Blaze in Terrible

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), April 15, 2013 | Go to article overview

INFERNO AT THE ZOO; Otter, MEERKATS, Snakes, IGUANAs, Ant Stick Insects.", Crickets, Colony, All Perished Bats. Blaze in Terrible


Byline: Nicola Stow n.stow@dailyrecord.co.uk

A FAMILY zoo was in mourning yesterday after a massive blaze killed dozens of animals.

Eleven meerkats and an otter were among the victims.

And all the animals and insects in the reptile house where the fire started were wiped out.

Firefighters battled to rescue other animals, including two dwarf crocodiles who had a miracle escape.

Four meerkats whose enclosure next to the reptile house caught fire managed to escape into a tunnel which connects their enclosure with an outside play area.

But two of them were so badly burned they had to be put down. Nine others are still missing.

And firefighters who saved the female of a pair of otters were unable to rescue the male.

The slaughter at Five Sisters Zoo in Polbeth, West Lothian, has shattered animal-loving owners Brian and Shirley Curran, who run the enterprise as a non-profit operation.

The couple, who live on site, woke at 3.50am to see giant flames leaping from the reptile enclosure.

Zoo worker Lesley Coupar said last night: "It's the worst nightmare. Shirley and Brian are absolutely devastated. They're still in shock.

"The Currans live for animals and they have worked tirelessly to build this zoo. They are just devastated."

"They live on site and were woken early to find the whole building on fire. It was terrifying for them.

"Five Sisters is a non-profit zoo and the Currans have put their heart and soul into the place, tirelessly building it up into a successful attraction over the last eight years. It's just so sad."

Fifty firefighters battled for eight hours to tackle the heartbreaking blaze.

The casualties in the reptile house were snakes, iguanas, lizards and fruit bats, as well as hundreds of thousands of insects, including a colony of about 500,000 leaf-cutting ants.

The dwarf West African crocodiles were in their pond in a neighbouring enclosure when the disaster hit.

Their pond was turned into an oily puddle by the blaze and they were trapped under the debris of the collapsed building.

But rescuers managed to get them to safety and they were being treated by vets last night, alongside the surviving otter and two meerkats.

Describing the crocodiles' escape as "miraculous", Lesley said: "The crocodiles are housed in a building adjacent to the reptile house.

"They were okay because they were in a pond. However, because the building had burned to the ground, they were trapped under water beneath the debris - so it was a tricky operation to free them. They were carried out and are being treated by vets."

She added: "We think the meerkats who got out managed to escape by fleeing into a tunnel which connects their enclosure with an outside play area."

It is understood the two meerkats which were put down had suffered severe burns to their faces.

Lesley said the zoo's pair of otters had been inseparable.

She added: "We managed to save the female otter but, sadly, her partner died.

"They were very much a couple and a huge, popular attraction at the zoo. So many people love them.

"They've been at the zoo for several years but have never mated. We were always hoping it might happen one day. …

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