Chester Zoo fire: Small birds, fish, frogs and insects die in blaze that destroyed 'monsoon' enclosure

Bosses 'overwhelmed by people’s generosity' as donations raise more than £100,000 

Jane Dalton
Sunday 16 December 2018 22:44
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Chester Zoo evacuated after fire breaks out

Exotic animals including small birds, fish, frogs and insects were killed in a fire that wrecked the roof of the vast “monsoon” area at Chester Zoo.

As donations from members of the public poured in during the 24 hours since the blaze, the tally in a fundraising appeal reached more than £100,000.

Zoo bosses said they were devastated by the loss of some of the animals in Saturday’s fire but that the money would help the zoo recover.

Jamie Christon, the zoo’s chief operating officer, said keepers had been completely overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

The fire was one of the “toughest days” in the history of Chester Zoo, he said in a statement online.

Firefighters declared a major incident after the blaze broke out, sending 15 fire engines.

Visitors to the Monsoon Forest attraction – billed as the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK – were rushed to safety as the blaze spread rapidly through the roofing.

Staff led animals housed in the structure to safety. Armed police officers were reportedly sent to the zoo in case any large animals escaped.

The zoo’s critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, gibbons, crocodiles, Sulawesi macaques, turtles and exotic birds were rescued.

But managers said they had been unable to save some insects, frogs, fish and small birds.

Mr Christon said: “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to lose any animal, especially when conservationists have worked so hard to breed these wonderful species.”

He said new homes have been found in the zoo for all the animals that were led to safety. “And our teams are working around the clock to relocate them as soon as possible.”

Managers are helping fire chiefs investigate what caused the blaze.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking to lose any animal

Jamie Christon

A spokesman for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said officers had spoken to witnesses and reviewed CCTV footage and were confident the cause of the fire was accidental.

Mr Christon added: “The strength and support from the public has been incredibly overwhelming and the messages of goodwill have been of great comfort to our teams.

“We will support each other in rebuilding this part of the zoo and continue our mission of preventing extinction.”

The zoo, which has 21,000 animals including tigers, lions and elephants, said it had been inundated with messages from people asking how they could help.

“We remain committed to our mission to prevent extinction and for those who are asking how they can help, we would welcome a donation to our continuing conservation work,” the zoo said.

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One witness, David Clough, 50, who lives opposite, said high winds fanned the flames in the roof.

He added: “We were very worried for the people and animals that would have been in the building.

“Orangutans and gibbons are our nearest neighbours there, but there are many other animals, including free-flying birds.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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