Above: Chester Zoo’s Monsoon Forest opened in August 2015 and is a 14-acre tropical habitat. The fire has done significant damage to the exhibit’s roof and it is currently closed to the public


FOLLOWING A LARGE fire in its Monsoon Forest habitat at the end of last year, Chester Zoo has worked hard to rehome and rehabilitate the surviving animals and birds.

Visitors were evacuated from the zoo on the morning of December 15, 2018, when the blaze broke out, while staff tried to save as many inhabitants as possible. The flames were fanned by strong winds and it took 15 fire crews to put it out.

Jamie Christon, chief operating officer at Chester Zoo, said: “[It] 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 and all visitors safely evacuated.

“The animals rescued from Monsoon Forest are well cared for and our keepers are continuing to monitor them. Conservationists worked around the clock to relocate an array of species to a range of habitats spread across the zoo’s 125 acres.”

The Monsoon Forest, which opened in August 2015, is a 14-acre tropical habitat that was home to numerous bird species, including rhinoceros hornbills (Buceros rhinoceros), superb fruit-doves (Ptilinopus superbus) and white-rumped shamas (Copsychus malabaricus), as well as orangutans, crocodiles and a variety of amphibian, insect and plant species.

Unfortunately, some species were lost in the fire, including a grosbeak starling (Scissirostrum dubium), a scaly-breasted bulbul (Pycnonotus squamatus), a chestnut-backed thrush (Geokichla dohertyi) and an emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica).

Mr Christon added: “It’s devastating to lose any animal, but thankfully the vast majority of birds were rescued by our expert teams. All birds that were rehomed are faring very well indeed.”

An investigation has concluded that the fire was started accidentally and was caused by an electrical fault.

The zoo has set up a conservation fundraising page in response to a deluge of offers of support from members of the public. The total funds raised at the time of writing were £148,140.63.

From early this year, the zoo will be working with its insurers to start rebuilding the Monsoon Forest.

● To support Chester Zoo’s conservation efforts, visit its Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/monsoonforest

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