Born Free Foundation’s concern over Woburn monkey fire deaths

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, fire crews were called to Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire after a fire broke out in the patas monkey house, which is part of the park’s African Forest drive-through area.

A Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said the outbuilding housing the atas monkeys “was well alight and its roof had fallen in” when firefighters arrived.

They fought the fire using fire hoses while wearing breathing apparatus to protect themselves from the smoke and fumes. The building was 90% damaged by the fire.

Sadly thirteen patas monkeys died and an investigation into the cause of the blaze is now underway, during which time the park will remain open to the public.

Speaking to Channel 4 News about the tragedy, Born Free Foundation Founder and President Will Travers said: “The burden of inspection is extremely high, and it is sort of what happens when you have this many zoos, this many enclosures, and an inspectorate that in our view, and this is a consistent position for many years, really isn’t fit for purpose. It’s too infrequent, and it’s not a full time independent inspectorate, and that’s what it needs to be.”

Will Travers on Channel 4 News
Will Travers discussing the Woburn monkey enclosure fire on Channel 4 News.

Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, Chris Draper, said: “Fires and animal deaths at both London Zoo and Woburn Safari Park leave us with even greater concerns regarding the ability of zoos to guarantee the safety of staff, visitors and animals. We hope that a detailed formal inquiry will be undertaken to ensure that such tragic and upsetting events cannot happen again at these or other zoos, and that the system for licensing and inspection of zoos will be reviewed to minimise the risks of such incidents in the future.”

The Woburn fire comes just over a week after a fire at London Zoo, which killed an aardvark and left four meerkats presumed dead.