A gorilla that was seriously injured in a zoo fire on New Year’s Eve had to be shot dead by a police officer after vets were unable to euthanize it, it has emerged.
An official report detailed the previously unreported drama in the wake of the blaze at Krefeld zoo earlier this month.
Rescuers searching through the charred remains of the primate house on New Year’s Day found two animals still alive: the gorilla and a female orangutan, the interior ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia state said.
Vets were able to euthanize the orangutan but struggled to do so with the gorilla. After getting permission from a senior officer, a 34-year-old police officer killed the gorilla with shots from his submachine gun.
Image shows Kidogo, the gorilla believed to have been shot dead by a 34-year-old police officer in Krefeld, after vets were unable to euthanize him
This file photo from January 1 this year shows a toy ape placed between candles at the entrance of the Zoo in Krefeld, Germany
Firefighters are pictured working at the burning monkey house of the zoo in Krefeld, western Germany, early on January 1
A 48-year-old silverback gorilla called Massa was among the animals killed in the inferno at the zoo on New Year’s Eve in Krefeld
Investigators believe the fire which killed dozens of animals was caused by airborne lanterns that were released by three women celebrating the new year.
The lanterns, which are illegal to use in Germany, had inadvertently landed in the zoo.
The suspects responsible for the fire which killed dozens of animals are a mother, 60, and her two adult daughters believed to be in their 30s, Krefeld police confirmed on January 2.
The three women from Krefeld in western Germany lit five paper Chinese lanterns and launched them into the sky on New Year’s Eve, despite a ban on the objects, which they had ordered online without a permit.
Candles and soft toys are placed at the entrance outside of the zoo in Krefeld, Germany, late evening January 1, 2020
Gerd Hoppmann, head of the Krefeld investigation commission, holds up one of the recovered paper lanterns at a press conference
An Orangutan mother and its baby are pictured together at Krefeld Zoo in December 2016. According to investigators, the fire was ignited in the north-eastern corner of the cage and the animals were either burnt to death or killed by inhaling toxic smoke
The blaze at Krefeld zoo in northwestern Germany destroyed the entire ape house killing dozens of animals inside while fruit bats and birds also died in the fire
They handed themselves into police after learning of the disaster on the news, in which the entire ape house burned down and more than 30 animals, including five orangutans, a 48-year-old silverback gorilla called Massa, a chimpanzee and several monkeys, as well as fruit bats and birds, were killed just after midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Criminal police chief Gerd Hoppmann described the women as ‘completely normal people who seemed very sensible, very responsible’.
Hoppmann added that it was ‘courageous’ of them to hand themselves into police after learning of the fire, saving them a lengthy investigation. ‘That is courageous. It stands for something that they handed themselves into the police like that. It is a decent thing to do and earns my respect,’ he said.
He said that they fear reprisals. The suspects could either face up to five years’ jail time or be hit with a fine.
Kidogo, the gorilla who was shot dead in the aftermath of the fire, is pictured in an image from 2014 at Krefeld Zoo in Germany
A note with text ‘in silent commemoration and loving memory’ at the entrance outside of the zoo in Krefeld
Debris: The charred remains of the monkey enclosure. Police had to shoot a gorilla because its injuries were so severe
A woman lights a candle at the main entrance of the Zoo in Krefeld, Germany at the start of this month
The burned-out monkey house of the zoo in Krefeld pictured in the early hours of January 1
Firefighters at the burned-out monkey house of the zoo in Krefeld. The fire on New Year’s Eve was caused by flying lanterns
According to Hoppmann, the internet companies selling the lanterns provide no warning about the countries they are banned in and there was nothing in the product description that could have informed the buyer.
Many Germans welcome in the new year legally with fireworks at midnight. Sky lanterns, however, are both mostly illegal and unusual in Germany. The mini hot-air balloons made of paper have been used in Asia for centuries.
Authorities are investigating on a single charge of ‘arson through negligence’, which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in jail.
Police admitted that the incident was an ‘exceptional’ one. Four of the five lanterns were recovered by authorities.
Several witnesses reported that they had seen the cylindrical paper lanterns (file picture) with little fires inside flying in the night sky shortly before the blaze
Analysts studied the handwriting on one of the lanterns and inspected the burned-out animal enclosure at Krefeld Zoo, as well as analysing wind and weather patterns to determine those responsible and the exact details surrounding the case.
According to investigators, the fire was ignited in the north-eastern corner of the cage before strengthening and spreading, and the animals were either burnt to death or killed by inhaling toxic smoke. ‘I’ve seen very many human corpses,’ Hoppmann said. ‘And I was struck by how like humans the bodies of the great apes looked when transformed by the fire.’
The ape house had been fitted with plexiglass – a transparent plastic material – a few years ago after a hailstorm. Foliage on the roof of the enclosure may have played a role in strengthening the fire, police said.
The zoo has been criticised for not installing sprinklers within the ape house which could have prevented the fire from spreading.
A makeshift shrine was set up at the entrance outside of the zoo in Krefeld in the wake of the New Year’s inferno
The city of Krefeld is considering a ban on fireworks, in the wake of the devastating incident. Department store chain Real said it would stop selling the lanterns, which are still permitted in the northern, coastal region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Krefeld Zoo was reopened on January 3 but zoo officials erected barriers around the enclosure to avoid ‘catastrophe tourism’ and macabre photos.
Earlier this month, the two apes, the gorilla and the orangutan, were thought to be doing well considering the circumstances. A funeral for the dead animals was organised for employees of the zoo.