Circus lions appeal -Five Sisters Zoo

December 2014

Five Sisters Zoo (West Calder) has launched an urgent appeal to rescue four ex-circus male lions from an uncertain future.

Just over three years since they launched an appeal which led to their successful rehoming of three ex-circus bears, the plight of four ex-circus lions has come to the attention of Five Sisters Zoo. And, with overwhelming support from the public, they have launched a new appeal to bring Simba, Mufasa, Sangaka and Tiny to a new permanent home.

In May 2014 the four male lions were confiscated by the Belgian government from a travelling French circus. Belgian law forbids the use of wild animals in circuses but despite warnings the circus refused to stop. A few days after the final warning, Government officials confiscated the circus trailer and drove it to a Belgian rescue centre which has provided a safe and secure area for them. But they're not able to keep them indefinitely and were desperately looking for a permanent home.

The solution is Five Sisters Zoo! Having identified a suitable two acre site, the aim is to raise £150,000, build an enclosure and, within six months, bring the lions to live permanently at the Zoo.

Brian & Shirley Curran, owners of the Five Sisters Zoo, said, “This is an enormous undertaking but with all the pledges of help we've had we are confident we can make this happen. We had not intended asking for public donations but the overwhelming response was that the public want to help and for this we are so grateful. We have estimated that the enclosure and housing will cost around £150,000. We have a very short timescale to make this happen.”

The exact history of the lions is not known - not even their age or breed. They have all been castrated, probably at a very young age - possibly the reason for them being so large and giving the appearance of a lioness.

Once the Rescue centre had removed the lions from the circus trailer – the only home they had ever known – they found it to be in a terrible condition with large pieces of metal jutting out, holes in the floor and the space terribly cramped for four large wild animals. Despite this the Belgian Rescue Centre has confirmed that “they are huge and in good health”

The lions don’t have claws on their fore-paws, which is very sad because cats must be able to scratch; presumably they were either cut off or pulled out. Apparently this frequently happens in circuses, to make them less dangerous when they hit the animal trainer.

A video clip provided by the Rescue Centre shows the lions' reaction to a stick - they stress. “It’s something we normally would never do in the rescue centre ... but I think it’s important to show how the animals react to a stick.... they were often beaten up, and really know the stick. When I show the stick to my dogs, they are happy because they think they can play. The lions however cringe, showing that they had a terrible life. “

Five Sisters Zoo, Gavieside, West Calder, West Lothian EH54 9HH

Ways to donate

*Via the zoo website’s paypal at


Send a cheque payable to the Circus Lion Rescue Fund, Five Sisters Zoo, Gavieside, West Calder, EH55 9HH

*Purchase ex-circus lion merchandise: badges, tee-shirts, wrist bands and mugs are for sale in the shop or on-line.

Alternative Christmas present ideas for animal lovers:

*Add your name to the Lion Sponsor Board : £10.00

*Buy a Lion plaque to personalise a message : £50.00

*Company sponsor package @ £500.00 – further details from the Zoo