The Sunday Telegraph
Orang-utans saved from blaze at Chester Zoo’s ‘monsoon forest’
CHESTER ZOO staff were trying to locate some of their animals last night after a fire destroyed much of the roof of the largest enclosure.
All the mammals had been located but keepers were said to be “working hard” to track down the rest of the animals, according to a statement released by the zoo.
Orang-utans, gibbons, crocodiles, turtles and exotic birds are among the species housed in the Monsoon Forest, which recreates a tropical south-east Asian environment and is billed as the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK.
The zoo said in a statement: “Critically endangered Sumatran orang-utans and other mammals are all accounted for. We are working hard to account for all other species.”
The other species currently unaccounted for include free-flying birds and insects, which the zoo has stressed do not pose a danger to the public.
Staff at the zoo are understood to be checking the health of the animals that were safely recovered, a process which could take several days.
Witnesses described how visitors to the attraction were rushed to safety as the blaze spread rapidly through the polymer roofing material at around 11.30am. The fire is believed to have been started by an electrical fault.
Zoo staff led the animals housed in the structure to safety as firefighters rushed to the scene. Members of the public were evacuated and the zoo, which is home to more than 21,000 animals, was closed for the rest of the day. It will reopen today although the Monsoon Forest building will be shut.
One witness, David Clough, 50, who lives across the road from the zoo, said high winds fanned the flames in the roof of the building.
He said: “We were very worried for the people and animals that would have been in the building. Orang-utans and gibbons are our nearest neighbours there, but there are many other animals. It was spreading across the roof in strong winds for a while.”
One person was treated for smoke inhalation, according to North West Am- bulance Service, but there are no known other injuries. Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service crews with 15 fire appliances tackled the blaze.
Det Supt Pete Shaw said in a statement last night: “Emergency services remain at the scene and we are continuing to work alongside staff at the zoo. I would like to reassure people that there is no risk to public safety as a result of this incident.”
The rescued animals are now being looked after by specialist vets.
Fires have broken out at other major UK zoos in recent years. In January, 13 monkeys were killed in a blaze at Woburn Safari Park, and a fire at London Zoo in Dec 2017 killed an aardvark and four meerkats.