In Brief

Chester Zoo fire: how animals were saved with personal bonds, comfort blankets and bananas

Keepers ‘overwhelmed’ as fundraising campaign tops £120,000 following blaze in Monsoon Forest zone

Six orangutans, four gibbons and 18 macaque monkeys survived a huge blaze at Chester Zoo this weekend after their keepers used comfort blankets and bananas to calm and lead them to safety.

However, devastated zoo workers were unable to save a number of animals including insects, frogs, fish and small birds - some from critically endangered species - when fire tore through the £40m Monsoon Forest enclosure on Saturday morning, reports The Independent

The zoo’s chief operating officer, Jamie Christon, said: “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to lose any animal, especially when conservationists have worked so hard to breed these wonderful species.”

No staff or members of the public were harmed in the fire, which was eventually brought under control by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service crews.

Zoo bosses said the strong bonds between the keepers and their charges had saved the lives of many animals, including critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, Sulawesi macaques, endangered silvery gibbons and birds such as rhinoceros hornbills.

Mike Jordan, the zoo’s animal and plant director, said: “We were able with our keepers and the relationships they have with the animals, the strong bond between them, to call the animals out.”

“Some orangutans were also seen wrapping themselves in their ‘comfort blankets’ as they fled the fire,” The Sun reports.

Jordan said that 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,” he added.

The zoo reopened today, as donations to a JustGiving “Monsoon Forest Fund” page topped £120,000.

Jamie Christon, the zoo’s chief operating officer, said: “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 cause of the fire is not yet known.

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