The new decade was just barely minutes old when residents of Krefeld, Germany raised the alarm that a fire had broken out at their local zoo.
Gerd Hoppmann, the city’s head of criminal police stated that it is likely the fire was caused by Chinese sky lanterns. Several witnesses had reported they had seen sky lanterns flying at low altitude just after midnight, in the vicinity of Krefeld Zoo. Shortly afterwards, at 00.38, reports came in that the tropical monkey sanctuary was on fire.
There are no surviving animals in the monkey house. Krefeld Zoo
Despite the fire brigade attending within a few minutes, the 45-year-old enclosure was destroyed, and only the skeletal structure remains. Zoo Director Wolfgang Dreben confirmed that more than 30 animals, including eight highly endangered great apes, a West African chimpanzee, two lowland gorillas, numerous smaller monkeys, fruit bats and tropical birds had burned to death in the flames.
“It’s a huge loss to the breeding program for these great apes, we were leaders in our zoo,” stated Dreben.
German media has reported that Massa, aged 48—the oldest living silverback gorilla in the European endangered species breeding programme—had died in the fire.
"It was clear that we couldn’t save anything on the building. However, we protected the kangaroo house and were able to limit the fire," stated Kai Gunther, operations manager of the Krefeld fire department.
Krefeld Zoo posted on social media, "A miracle, the chimpanzees Bally and Limbo survived the devastating fire. They are only slightly injured and are now housed in two boxes in the gorilla garden."
The person causing the fire must expect to be prosecuted for negligent arson. Krefeld Police
Criminal Police Investigation
It has been reported that the damage to the Zoo is “in the high double-digit millions”.
A spokesman for the criminal police stated it was “very likely” that sky lanterns started the fire—apparently, fire investigators have found handwritten wishes on three sky lanterns near the zoo enclosure. There may well be prosecutions. The sale of sky lanterns is banned in all German states bar the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Krefeld is based in the state of North Rhine–Westphalia.