Five Sisters Zoo fire: Reptiles, insects and an otter killed in blaze at West Lothian zoo

Dozens of reptiles,  meerkats and an otter among the dead after early morning blaze

Dozens of reptiles were killed after an “extremely ferocious” fire at a zoo in West Lothian, Scotland, today.

The blaze is feared to have claimed the lives of all the animals in the tropical enclosure except two dwarf West African crocodiles. The pair dodged death by submerging themselves underwater in their pond as the blaze took hold in the early hours.

The animals, which can grow to 5ft (1.5m) in length, were eventually plucked to safety by firefighters at Five Sisters Zoo in Polbeth.

The fire started at about 3:50am. Fire crews managed to stop it spreading but it is understood that all the animals in the reptile house, which included tortoises, turtles, lizards, geckos, snakes and iguanas, have died – along with one of the zoo’s two “beloved otters”.

Two meerkats had to be put down because of their injuries while nine more were missing and feared dead last night. The fire is not thought to be suspicious and inquiries are believed to have centred on the heating system in the reptile house.

Staff at the privately-owned zoo were yesterday carrying out an inventory to confirm the exact death toll.

Zoo spokeswoman Lesley Coupar said: “We are devastated. It’s the worst nightmare. We’re in the business of rescuing animals, giving a safe haven to animals. It’s just the worst tragedy.”

She said the fire was “obviously extremely ferocious” and that “everything has perished” in the reptile house.

Ms Coupar said: “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.”

“The owners are obviously distraught, as are we all. We’re all animal lovers,” added Ms Coupar.

The zoo describes itself as the top wildlife, animal and exotics attraction in West Lothian, housing more than 130 species from around the world. Formed in 2005, last year it celebrated the arrival of meerkat pups and the completion of a bear enclosure for three former circus bears rescued from a life of trauma in Belgium.

The £80,000 fundraising campaign to build the bears’ enclosure included donations from the actress Joanna Lumley.

“Firefighters were able to help rescue two dwarf crocodiles and an otter but sadly some animals have perished in the fierce fire,” said a Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesman.

The fire service said 50 firefighters and 11 fire engines and specialist appliances were involved with bringing the blaze under control at its height. No zoo staff are thought to have been injured in the incident.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'