Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Five Sisters Zoo fire: Animals dead in blaze

The blaze destroyed the reptile house at the zoo
Image caption The blaze destroyed the reptile house at the zoo

A "substantial" number of animals have died in a "ferocious" blaze at a zoo in West Lothian.

The fire broke out in the reptile house of the Five Sisters Zoo at Polbeth, West Calder, at about 03:50.

Fire crews managed to stop it spreading but reptiles, 11 meerkats and an otter died. They were able to rescue a pair of dwarf crocodiles and a second otter.

The fire is not thought to be suspicious and inquiries are believed to be looking at the heating system.

No people were injured in the blaze.

Image caption Firefighters attended the fire at the West Lothian zoo

Lesley Coupar, from the zoo, told BBC Scotland that the alarm went off and the owners went out to see that the reptile house, a corrugated iron building, was ablaze.

She said a "substantial" number of reptiles - including snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises - had died, along with meerkats and and an ant colony. However, the house was partially closed and not all the reptiles were being kept there.

Ms Coupar said: "The reptile house is a shell and I don't think there is anything that has survived the blaze.

"It was obviously extremely ferocious and everything has perished that was in the reptile house.

"Otters and meerkats were housed near to the blaze and the crocodiles. We do know that the crocodiles have survived, they were submerged in water in their pond.

"Unfortunately one otter died but the other one, we hope, will survive. It is under supervision as we speak."

'Completely distraught'

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are focusing their investigations on a heating system in the reptile house.

The fire service said 11 fire engines and specialist appliances were involved with bringing the blaze under control at its height.

The building involved is single storey and approximately 82ft (25m) by 49ft (15m) in size. The nearby road is currently closed to traffic.

Image caption The zoo has more than 100 different species of animals

The privately-owned zoo, which was established in 2005, has set up a dedicated fundraising page, following calls from members of the public wishing to make a donation.

Ms Coupar said: "We are a non-profit organisation who primarily rescue animals who would otherwise be put to sleep because nobody else wants them.

"We are here to offer them a safe haven. We work so terribly hard, with no money, just to keep these animals so this is just the worst nightmare.

"The owners, staff and volunteers are all completely distraught because our main purpose is to look after and care for these animals."

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: This is very sad news and it is deeply upsetting to hear that a number of animals perished in the fire.

"Over the coming days, and weeks, West Lothian Council will look to work with the Zoo's owners to offer them assistance, and to help ensure that this popular facility recovers as quickly as possible."

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