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1 January 2020, 17:06
The flames engulfed the ape house just after midnight causing chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans to lose their lives.
Dozens of apes have been killed at a zoo in Germany after a devastating fire tore through the monkey sanctuary on New Year's Eve.
Krefeld Zoo, near Dusseldorf, explained its "worst fears have become reality" as they confirmed the deaths of 30 chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, as well as fruit bats, birds and other animals.
Flames ripped through the ape house just after midnight, sparking rumours the fire was caused by Chinese sky lanterns and fireworks set off to mark the start of 2020.
Zoo officials took to Facebook to break the terrible news, writing: "An unfathomable tragedy hit us shortly after midnight. Our ape building burned down to the foundation."
Almost all of the primates in the enclosure sadly died, but two chimps called Bally and Limbo managed to escape with their lives in the early hours of this morning.
In what was described by the zoo director Wolfgang Dreßen as a rescue "miracle", the pair were reportedly brought to safety after their screams were heard by firefighters.
The distressed pair suffered minor burns and are thought to be recovering from the incident, which allegedly saw the 45-year-old building burn to the ground within just a few hours.
Krefeld Zoo also confirmed that its most famous resident was still alive as the nearby Gorilla Garden managed to avoid being hit by the fire.
Bosses reassured animal lovers and fans of the famous primate on Facebook, writing: "Gorilla Kidogo and his family are alive".
However, German media reported that the oldest living silverback gorilla in the European endangered species breeding programme – 48-year-old Massa – had died.
Police are investigating how the inferno first sparked, but it was likely to have been caused by lanterns, which are banned in Germany, as reports claim three were found near the charred enclosure.
German citizens have since offered their help and services to the zoo, who have thanked them but don't yet know how to begin tackling this monster clean-up mission.
The establishment, which remained closed to the public on New Year's Day, said: "We are still in shock and cannot yet say exactly if and where help is needed."