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Fire Kills at Least 30 Animals at German Monkey House

Animals
The monkey house at the Krefeld Zoo in Germany burns on Jan. 1. Alexander Forstreuter / picture alliance via Getty Images

At least 30 animals died early New Year's Day in a fire at a monkey house at a zoo in Krefeld, Germany, The New York Times reported.


The Great Ape House had housed orangutans, chimpanzees, lowland gorillas, rodents, marmosets and birds before it burned down a little after midnight Wednesday.

"Our worst fears have become reality," the zoo wrote in a Facebook post reported by The Guardian.

The zoo originally wrote that all the animals in the enclosure had been killed, but later discovered that two chimpanzees had survived with only light wounds.

"The chimpanzees Bally and Limbo miraculously survived the devastating fire," the zoo said, according to The New York Times.

An open-air gorilla enclosure close to the destroyed monkey house was spared, along with popular silverback Kidogo and his family, The Guardian reported. However, another silverback, 48-year-old Massa, who was the oldest silverback in the European endangered species breeding program, died.

All told, the fire killed five orangutans, one chimpanzee, two gorillas and smaller monkeys and flying foxes, Euronews reported.

"An unbelievable tragedy rolled us shortly after midnight," the zoo wrote of the fire, according to Euronews.

Local residents reported the fire at 12:38 a.m. Wednesday, but firefighters were not able to control the flames before they had consumed all but the scaffolding of the monkey house, according to The Guardian. However, the firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to other zoo buildings, The Local Germany reported.

A video posted on social media showed the fire reaching treetops, according to Euronews.

The zoo remained closed Wednesday and Thursday.

"[W]e would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming wave of compassion and offers of help that reach us online and offline," the zoo wrote when it announced Thursday's closure.

Police are investigating the fire, and think it might have been caused by sky lanterns that were released into the air to celebrate the New Year.

"People reported seeing those sky lanterns flying at low altitude near the zoo and then it started burning," Gerd Hoppmann, the head of Krefeld's criminal police, told BBC News.

Used lanterns were also found near the enclosure.

It is illegal to sell the lanterns in every German state except Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the east, The Guardian reported.

The enclosure was built in 1975 and measured 21,500 square feet, according to BBC News. It was designed to mimic a tropical rainforest environment.

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