Monday, July 18, 2005

No 'crispy, fried monkeys' at fire-ravaged animal park

There was no evidence of "crispy, fried monkeys" at the fire-ravaged premises of the Animal and Reptile Park in Muldersdrift, an International Wildlife Welfare Organisation inspector said after visiting the private sanctuary on Monday.

"There was a fire ... from my observations, no animal was injured ... every animal is accounted for," said the inspector, Cecilia Knox.

"I cannot see anywhere that any animal was in immediate danger [from the fire]. That is the bottom line," she said.

A fire started by sparks from a bonfire on a neighbouring farm swept through the park on Saturday.

A Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) senior officer, Phillip Roberts, claimed shortly afterwards that he was not only refused access to the park to help, but was told he would only be allowed to enter if he produced a court order and had a police escort.

In addition to claims that three moneys died in the fire, it was further alleged that singed fur was seen on a surviving monkey.

Knox, however, dismissed the allegations, saying she had found "no animals injured, dead or dying" during her inspection on Monday afternoon.

"Every single one of them is here. Nothing awful happened here," she said.

The blaze was limited to the centre of the U-shaped primates' enclosure and had been doused by 20 workers using 10 hose pipes.

Adjoining land was soaked with water stored in drums around the property at this time of year to prevent the spread of flames in the event of fires. Park officials had also called the fire department, she said.

Knox said that she found the park's 29 monkeys "calm" and "playing around like they normally play".

At the time of the fire, they had made straight for their concrete sleeping quarters, where they were restrained behind the enclosures' steel doors.

Story here.

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