Jan. 1 (UPI) — Gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees were among the dozens of animals killed in a New Year’s Day fire at a zoo in in western Germany.
Witnesses reported seeing low-flying Chinese sky lanterns, miniature kite-like balloons with candles inside, drifting over Krefeld Zoo, according to Gerd Hoppmann, head of the city’s criminal police force.
Police and firefighters responded to reports of a fire at the zoo, just before 1 a.m. local time.
More than 30 animals — nearly all the animals in the zoo — were killed in the fire, according to news reports. The list animals lost in the fire included five orangutans, two gorillas, a chimpanzee and several monkeys. Some birds and fruit bats were also killed.
Though officials with the zoo, located near the German-Dutch border, originally reported all the residents of the ape house were lost, later reports revealed the rescue of two chimpanzees. A separate open-air gorilla enclosure was unscathed, leaving a male silverback gorilla, Kidogo, and his family unharmed.
Zoo officials described the rescue of the two chimps, female Bally and male Limbo, as a “miracle.”
Sadly, the oldest living silverback gorilla in an endangered species breeding coordinated by European zoos, a 48-year-old ape named Massa, died in the fire.
While private firework shows are allowed in most German states and cities, Chinese fire lanterns are banned.