How keepers at Chester Zoo lured six orangutans to safety by waving bananas as enclosure burned

Keepers lured six orangutans, four gibbons and 18 macaques away from the flames at Chester Zoo with the help of tempting bananas, it emerged last night.

As flames began to destroy the roof of the Monsoon Forest building on Saturday, visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger.

Once the animals were safely in the open-air part of the enclosures, the doors were closed, preventing them from returning.

A rescued orangutan is pictured seeking comfort in a blanket after the fire broke out at Chester Zoo's Monsoon Forest on Saturday. Visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger

A rescued orangutan is pictured seeking comfort in a blanket after the fire broke out at Chester Zoo's Monsoon Forest on Saturday. Visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger

A rescued orangutan is pictured seeking comfort in a blanket after the fire broke out at Chester Zoo’s Monsoon Forest on Saturday. Visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger

Sumatran orangutans then wrapped themselves up in blankets, which is the kind of ‘comfort’ behaviour they exhibit all year round, bosses revealed.

Once the flames had been put out, the animals were moved to a warmer space to keep them out of the icy December rain.

Rare sunda gharial crocodiles housed in another part of the complex were kept safe by remaining underwater.

Director of collections Mike Jordan said: ‘I am proud of the way the fire service worked with our animals team.

The Monsoon Forest at Chester Zoo is pictured left before the fire and right, after the fire. The zoo, which was the focus of the hit series The Secret Life of The Zoo, has launched a £50,000 appeal to help it recover

‘As soon as they had ensured the building was empty of humans, they were equally passionate about saving the lives of the animals.’

He added: ‘They [the keepers] were successful in calling them outside because they have struck up a bond with the animals.’

Other mammals and larger birds, including endangered silvery gibbons and rhinoceros hornbills, were also saved, together with tortoises and turtles.

However, chief operating officer Jamie Christon said he was ‘devastated’ not to have been able to save insects, frogs, fish and small birds which were located near to the seat of the blaze.

Flames and plumes of smoke pour out of the Monsoon Forest building at Chester Zoo. Once the flames had been put out, the animals were moved to a warmer space to keep them out of the icy December rain

Flames and plumes of smoke pour out of the Monsoon Forest building at Chester Zoo. Once the flames had been put out, the animals were moved to a warmer space to keep them out of the icy December rain

Flames and plumes of smoke pour out of the Monsoon Forest building at Chester Zoo. Once the flames had been put out, the animals were moved to a warmer space to keep them out of the icy December rain

Ambulances also attended, along with armed police in case animals escaped. But apart from one person treated for smoke inhalation, no humans were injured

Ambulances also attended, along with armed police in case animals escaped. But apart from one person treated for smoke inhalation, no humans were injured

Ambulances also attended, along with armed police in case animals escaped. But apart from one person treated for smoke inhalation, no humans were injured

He said: ‘It’s absolutely heartbreaking to lose any animal, especially when conservationists have worked so hard to breed these wonderful species.’

All the evacuated animals were relocated to different enclosures around the 125-acre site and checked over as ‘tireless’ staff worked through the night. 

The zoo, which attracted 1.7million visitors in 2015 – making it Britain’s most popular paid-for attraction outside London – reopened yesterday, with the exception of the £40million Islands area of which the damaged building formed part.

Photographs from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service showed the twisted plastic roof, charred columns and the ash-covered floor of the Monsoon Forest, which opened in 2014. 

The 14-acre habitat is designed to mimic the environment of South-East Asia.

Fifteen fire engines were sent to the zoo and a major incident declared following the first 999 calls shortly before 11.30am.

The enclosure at Chester Zoo - which is home to around 21,000 animals - is seen from the air. All the evacuated animals were relocated to different enclosures around the 125-acre site and checked over as ¿tireless¿ staff worked through the night  

The enclosure at Chester Zoo - which is home to around 21,000 animals - is seen from the air. All the evacuated animals were relocated to different enclosures around the 125-acre site and checked over as ¿tireless¿ staff worked through the night  

The enclosure at Chester Zoo – which is home to around 21,000 animals – is seen from the air. All the evacuated animals were relocated to different enclosures around the 125-acre site and checked over as ‘tireless’ staff worked through the night  

 As flames began to destroy the roof of the Monsoon Forest building on Saturday, visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger. Once the animals were safely in the open-air part of the enclosures, the doors were closed, preventing them from returning

 As flames began to destroy the roof of the Monsoon Forest building on Saturday, visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger. Once the animals were safely in the open-air part of the enclosures, the doors were closed, preventing them from returning

 As flames began to destroy the roof of the Monsoon Forest building on Saturday, visitors were evacuated before the primates were enticed out of danger. Once the animals were safely in the open-air part of the enclosures, the doors were closed, preventing them from returning

Ambulances also attended, along with armed police in case animals escaped. But apart from one person treated for smoke inhalation, no humans were injured.

Yesterday, fire incident commander Lee Shears said: ‘We believe the fire was started accidentally because we have spoken to a number of witnesses and viewed the CCTV from the zoo’s security systems.’

The zoo, which was the focus of the hit series The Secret Life of The Zoo, has launched a £50,000 appeal to help it recover, with well-wishers swiftly smashing the target. By last night, the total raised was more than £100,000.

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