Chester Zoo has announced that some of its animals died in yesterday’s fire, as the attraction raised more than £50,000 in donations in a matter of hours.
Insects, frogs, fish and small birds were killed in the blaze which tore through the Monsoon Forest area on Saturday.
The orangutans, gibbons and crocodiles who lived in the habitat were rescued from the flames but the zoo said today it was ‘devastated’ to say it had been unable to save some of the smaller creatures.
The zoo, which re-opened today, said it had been inundated with messages from people asking how they could lend their support.
A scene from inside the Monsoon forest habitat shows the devastating damage to the £40million attraction, described as the UK’s largest indoor zoo exhibit
Flames and smoke pour from the Monsoon Forest area of Chester Zoo, home to crocodiles and orangutans, in a blaze which forced the attraction to be evacuated and closed on Saturday
A firefighter is lifted in a crane above the Monsoon Forest enclosure after the blaze broke out there on Saturday morning
A family at the zoo today after it re-opened following Saturday’s fire, as members of the public raised tens of thousands of pounds to help recovery efforts
By Sunday lunchtime a JustGiving page had collected around £55,000 from more than 3,000 donors, already above its £50,000 target.
The zoo said in a statement today: ‘Yesterday was one of the toughest days in Chester Zoo’s long history.
‘The remarkable efforts from the zoo team and the emergency services meant the fire was extinguished as quickly as possible.
‘Keepers were able to encourage all mammal species away from the fire and to safety – including the zoo’s group of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans, Sulawesi macaques, endangered silvery gibbons and birds such as rhinoceros hornbills.
‘We are though, devastated to say that we were unable to save some of our insects, frogs, fish and small birds who were located near to the outbreak of the fire.
‘It’s absolutely heart-breaking to lose any animal, especially when conservationists have worked so hard to breed these wonderful species.
‘We remain committed to our mission to prevent extinction and for those who’re asking how they can help, we would welcome a donation to our continuing conservation work.’
As money flooded in on Sunday the zoo said it was ‘totally overwhelmed by the love and concern from everyone wanting to help in any way they can’, saying the support had been a ‘great comfort’.
Eyewitnesses 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.
One person was treated for smoke inhalation as a result of the fire, according to North West Ambulance Service.
The zoo initially said all animals were accounted for as staff led the creatures housed in the structure to safety but later said they were still tracking smaller animals down.
Poeple look at giraffes in Chester Zoo today as the attraction in the north-west of England reopened after Saturday’s devastating fire
Fire crews inside the remains of the Monsoon Forest habitat after Saturday’s huge blaze
Flames and plumes of smoke pour out of the building at Chester Zoo
Fire engines at the scene of the blaze that ravaged the roof of the Monsoon Forest habitat area
Chester Zoo after the fire broke out in the Monsoon Forest habitat area, which houses crocodiles and endangered Sumatran orangutans
Fire crews spray water on the Monsoon Forest habitat area at Chester Zoo after the fire broke out at around 11.30 on Saturday morning
One witness at the 125-acre park said they had seen ‘orangutans coming out and the gibbons swinging around the netting on the enclosure’.
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.’
Another visitor said: ‘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.’
Fire engines and a police car at the scene of the fire at Chester Zoo on Saturday afternoon
Crocodiles, orangutans and snakes were among the animals under threat as 15 fire engines tried to bring the blaze under control
Another guest evacuated, Daniel Murphy, told MailOnline that smoke had already been visible when he was allowed into the zoo.
He said: ‘Having just been evacuated from the zoo I can confirm the fire looked to be contained and controlled.
‘Was clearly burning when we were admitted and half an hour later evacuation ordered.’
Emma Flanagan, another of the guests, told the Liverpool Echo: ‘We saw the fire as we arrived, we thought it may be the zoo but we went into the car park anyway.
‘One of the members of staff said it was one of the islands where the fire was.
‘He said around 40 animals had been evacuated, people were still in there but they were getting told to leave.’
The enclosure at Chester Zoo – which is home to around 21,000 animals – which caught fire on Saturday is seen from the air in a file photo