Meercats and a giant tortoise were among the animals that died after a fire broke out at a popular petting zoo in Essex.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service crews rushed to Maldon Promenade Petting Zoo in the Dengie Peninsula at around 1.15am on Monday after the massive blaze covered the attraction’s barn.
Cockatoos, macaws, parrots, meerkats, armadillos, skunks and a giant tortoise died in the fire which killed at least 25 animals in the early hours of the morning.
Three fire crews - including those from Burnham, Maldon, and Tillingham - managed to extinguish the fire.
The zoo paid tribute to the animals they lost in a Facebook post on Monday.
It read: “These are just some of the amazing characters & personalities lost. I pay heartfelt love to them all & will miss you all RIP.
“Thank you all so much for support, we do have little guys still dependant on us & we must ensure we do all we can to support them at this tragic time. Our zoo will re open but we ask for just a little time to grieve this tragedy.”
It is believed the fire was caused by a faulty freezer, according to the zoo’s Facebook page.
It added: “We will never forget the beautiful animals that we have lost in such tragic circumstances, some of the little guys kept at our private farm were retired, resting or previous unwanted pets that we tried so hard to care for.
“We take every precaution to prevent fire/accidents happening, our appliances are regularly pat tested, we have certified electrician on hand for any problems, regularly have health & safety audits from our own but also external consultants, fire risk assessment regularly carried out, we also received guidance from the fire service two years ago to try & prevent accidental fire.
“With all this said we still couldn’t prevent an electrical freezer fire but we will do all we can to learn from what has occurred & heart felt apology to our beautiful animals lost, staff, family & of course customers who have all felt this loss.”
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “On arrival, crews reported that a barn measuring 20 metres by 30 metres was 100% alight.
“Crews worked to extinguish the fire in sections by 12.15pm. Sadly, a number of animals died at the incident.
“An investigation into the cause of the fire found that it started accidentally due to an electrical fault.”