Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - MAX MCLEAN, TOM PILGRIM AND TOM HOR­TON Press As­so­ci­a­tion news­[email protected]­

ZOO staff were last night work­ing to ac­count for all species af­ter fire de­stroyed much of the vast plas­tic roof cov­er­ing Ch­ester Zoo’s Mon­soon For­est area. All the mam­mals have been lo­cated but keep­ers are “work­ing hard” to track down the rest of the an­i­mals, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the zoo last night.

Wit­nesses de­scribed how vis­i­tors to the at­trac­tion – billed as the largest in­door zoo ex­hibit in the UK – were rushed to safety as the blaze spread rapidly through the poly­mer roof­ing ma­te­rial.

Zoo staff led the an­i­mals housed in the struc­ture to safety as fire­fight­ers rushed to the scene.

Orang­utans, gib­bons, croc­o­diles, tur­tles and ex­otic birds are among the species housed in the Mon­soon For­est, which recre­ates a tropical south east Asian en­vi­ron­ment.

The zoo said in a state­ment: “Crit­i­cally en­dan­gered Su­ma­tran orang­utans and other mam­mals are all ac­counted for.

“We are work­ing hard to ac­count for all other species.”

One per­son was treated for smoke in­hala­tion as a re­sult of the fire, ac­cord­ing to North West Am­bu­lance Ser­vice.

One eye­wit­ness, David Clough, 50, who lives across the road from the zoo, said high winds fanned the flames in the roof of the build­ing.

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

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

“It was spread­ing across the roof in strong winds for a while.

Their state­ment added: “Vis­i­tors were evac­u­ated and the zoo’s re­sponse team worked along­side the emer­gency ser­vices to help bring the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol.”

Cheshire Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice crews wear­ing breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus tack­led the blaze us­ing water jets.

One vis­i­tor told the Press As­so­ci­a­tion: “We were in the mon­soon en­clo­sure when it hap­pened and were rushed out due to an elec­tri­cal fire. It spread very quickly.

“The staff en­sured all the mem­bers of the pub­lic were safe. Many staff (were) run­ning to­wards the fire, (I’m) as­sum­ing to help with evac­u­at­ing an­i­mals.

“The en­tire zoo is closed – a shame as we’ve trav­elled up from Ply­mouth.”


The fire at the Mon­soon For­est habi­tat area of Ch­ester Zoo

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