Dozens of monkeys were left for the dead on New Year’s Eve, after there was a spark at a zoo in northwestern Germany, management and security services said Wednesday.
The blaze tore through the monkey enclosure shortly before midnight, killing at least 30 animals, including orangutans, chimpanzees, and marmosets, police said.
“Our worst fears have been realised,” Krefeld Zoo, which specialises in primates, announced on its Facebook page.
Firefighters prevented the flames from spreading to other buildings at the zoo in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Preliminary findings from an investigation suggest the fire might have been caused by flying paper lanterns, which float into the air when lit.
Three lanterns bearing hand-written New Year’s wishes were discovered in the smouldering debris.
These types of devices have been banned in the region since 2009.
Police launched an investigation for “negligently criminal fire” and hope to establish the path of the lanterns by analysing atmospheric conditions and wind direction.
The German animal protection association quickly called for all kinds of fireworks to be banned near zoos, farms, and kennels.
The deadly blaze was “terrible proof of the dramatic consequences for animals” from “uncontrolled” celebrations, the group said.
Germans often use powerful fireworks to celebrate the New Year, and in Berlin, rescue services on Wednesday had recorded 22 injuries, some of which required amputations, from the holiday.