Around 1.15am Monday, fire crews attended a barn fire on the Dengie Peninsula where the Maldon Promenade Petting Zoo kept a number of rescue animals.
As fire crews worked to extinguish the fire, staff members, family and friends tried to save as many animals as possible.
The zoo has since confirmed that nearly half of their animals were lost in the fire.
In a statement, the Essex County Fire and Rescue service said that upon arrival, “crews reported that a barn measuring 20 metres by 30 metres was 100 per cent alight.
“Crews worked to extinguish the fire in sections by 12.15pm. Sadly, a number of animals died at the incident.”
They added: “An electrical investigation into the cause of the fire found that it started accidentally due to an electrical fault”.
Craig Williams, one of the farm’s directors told The Times that 80 per cent of the animals that died were unwanted or rescued animals.
She said: “Everything else can be replaced. It’s the little lives that we lost. It sounds stupid but they are our family. The only comfort is to know that we had an impact on these little lives, even just for a few years”.
“We do have insurance but money doesn’t come close to what we’ve lost. It feels numb at the moment,” she added.
The zoo posted a tribute to the lost animals on Facebook: “We will never forget the beautiful animals that we have lost in such tragic circumstances, some of the little guys kept at our private farm were retired, resting or previous unwanted pets that we tried so hard to care for”.
The zoo listed some of the animals who had been lost, including Raz, a “beautiful ecalectus parrot, what an amazing cheeky character he was”.
Jake, a giant tortoise who “always kept zookeepers on their toes” was also among the deceased, as were and seven meerkats – known for their “huge personalities” and curious natures.
The zoo added that it takes “every precaution” to prevent fires and accidents, including regular health and safety audits, and regular tests of appliances, and frequent fire risk assessments.
“With all this said we still couldn’t prevent an electrical freezer fire,” the zoo wrote.
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