HUNDREDS of animals lovers have paid tribute to a brown bear which has been put down five years after being rescued from a travelling circus.
Peggy, a European brown bear, suffered 20 years of torment in a travelling circus in Germany where she was forced to live in a concrete cage measuring just 10 square metres.
Peggy, along with two other female brown bears, were rescued and given a new home at Five Sisters Zoo, West Calder, West Lothian, in 2012.
Remarkably, just one year later, she survived a fire which swept through the zoo killing more than 80 animals.
But fans of Peggy, thought to be aged around 30, were devastated to learn on social media that vets had taken the difficult decision to put her down yesterday after discovering an “irreversible degeneration of her spine”.
In the months leading up to this, Peggy had been seen dragging her back legs around her wooded enclosure and was struggling to walk.
Sharing the news on Facebook today, the zoo said: “For the past few months keepers and specialist vets have been closely monitoring Peggy, one of our beautiful European brown bears.
“Believed to be the oldest of the three rescued ex-circus bears, aged between 30 – 32 years old, she had very recently been finding it increasingly difficult to walk, some days dragging her back legs and unsure of her footing, causing her to stagger.
“She had also just started to lose some of her appetite, despite medical treatment of her condition.
“Peggy was anaesthetised and given a detailed examination by a team of six specialist veterinarians.
“Whilst asleep it was found that she was very sadly developing an irreversible degeneration of her spine.
“This was only going to progress and result in more severe pain, and the heart-breaking decision had to be made by the specialists and staff to let Peggy go, rather than allow her to suffer.
“We can only imagine the suffering she went through during her 20 plus years of life in the travelling circus.
“We know little of this time and can only imagine the humiliation and degradation that she endured.”
Nicola Watt wrote: “Run Free Peggy. Be proud knowing that you guys saved her from the most horrendous conditions and gave her the best life during her later years! Will miss seeing her on our visits.”
Heather Quigley said: “This is just awful news. After finding themselves the ideal place to grow old, it has all been snatched away from her.
“Humans can be so uncaring and cruel, and I only hope her time with you helped make up for the awful life she had endured till then.”
Joyce McLaren wrote: “I am sitting here in tears typing this, poor Peggy but you should all be proud of yourselves for giving her as well as Suzy and Carmen a loving and happy home away from the miserable life they had before you rescued them, thinking of you all.”
The bear trio were given their own sanctuary at the Five Sisters Zoo where they were free to forage in the woods, swim in the pond and successfully hibernate.
Peggy, Suzi and Carmen arrived at Five Sisters Zoo on 29 March 2012 from Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium where they had been looked after for several months before their arrival.
Not much is known about their suffering in the circus but Peggy arrived with a squint nose, believed to be from being hit.
On 14 April 2013 a massive blaze, starting from the reptile house, ripped through Five Sisters Zoo causing devastating effects.
A “substantial” number of reptiles – including snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises – had died, along with meerkats, an otter and an ant colony.
Lesley Coupar, of marketing and visitor services at the zoo, today said: “We are all absolutely devastated about Peggy.
“The three bears have been such a large part of the zoo and over the five years they have absolutely flourished.
“Carmen was sat very agitated next to where Peggy was being worked on yesterday. She was basically right outside and was very nervous and panicky, bless her.
“Suzi was sat outside Peggy’s pipe that she always used to be at.
“It was a very sad day yesterday for everyone at the zoo.”