At least 28 animals have died in a fire at a zoo in South Carolina.
A fire broke out in the animals’ primate barn some time before 8:30 Friday morning. Zoo employee Jay Gossett discovered smoke in the barn when he arrived at work, and went into the building to find several animals had died from smoke inhalation, according to Time. Fourteen other animals in the barn survived and are currently being treated.
Dr. Beverly Hargus, Hollywild’s veterinarian, told WHNS (Greenville) that the animals that died likely didn’t suffer, and that the survivors likely didn’t suffer either.
“This is very devastating to me and the entire Hollywild family. At this point, we do not feel any animals are suffering. None were burned. The survivors are recovering from smoke inhalation. It appears it was a quick and painless death for the animals that died. It is terribly tragic, but sadly, it is the kind of thing that can happen anywhere.”
The 28 animals that died in the fire are: two capuchins monkeys, four chimpanzees, two baboons, eight lemurs, two mangabeys (a species of small monkey), one bear cub, one African crowned crane, three tortoises, four wolf hybrid pups, and a barn cat.
The 14 survivors include five tortoises, one wallaroo (a marsupial similar in size to a wallaby or a kangaroo), two baboons, one dog, two wolf hybrid pups, one ring-tailed lemur, and 2-year-old bear cubs.
Fire Chief Brent Blackwell told WHNS that the animal park fire began due to faulty wiring in the barn’s lights.
“We have completed an investigation and determined that the cause was was an electrical short in one of the light fixtures. The fire traveled up into the ceiling and spread, causing the building to fill will smoke… This is definitely the kind of fire that can just happen anywhere.”
In a post on the animal park’s Facebook page, Richie Sanders, Hollywild’s animal staff supervisor, praised the employee who discovered the fire, and whose quick thinking likely saved the lives of several other animals.
“Jay is definitely a hero here. His quick action helped other animals survive.”
Although zoos are vital resources for rehabilitating injured animals, teaching the public about conservation, and preserving endangered species, the conditions under which animals in zoos live and die can be cause for controversy. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for example, has repeatedly condemned the housing of animals in cages and putting them on public display, according to this Inquisitr report.
Nevertheless, the staff at Hollywild Animal Park are grieving the loss of their animal friends; a private memorial service, open to employees only, will be held this Sunday.
[Image courtesy of: City of Greer]