A fire in the Western Cape flared up and destroyed large parts of Monkey Town, a primate and wildlife sanctuary in Somerset West that is popular with visitors, and various animal enclosures caught alight with their inhabitants inside them.
The fire comes soon after the robbery of the World of Birds, another big tourist attraction and wildlife sanctuary in the Western Cape.
Monkey Town posted a statement on its Facebook page, revealing that the overnight fire started at around 10.30pm.
“How do we share this news? We suffered a devastating fire at Monkey Town tonight. Our animals’ enclosures are still burning. All our animals are still safe at this moment. We will assess the damage when daylight comes,” the statement reads.
In an update, Monkey Town said that the sanctuary was left without power and its telephone lines were burnt.
According to the City of Cape Town’s Edward Bosch, the City’s fire and rescue services responded to the center’s call just before 11pm. Upon arrival, they found the main restaurant’s building alight. The fire service managed to get the flames under control, but had to return four more times in the night as the flames kept being reignited by the strong wind. The fire service only left the center after 4am this morning after its final return to the centre.
The entire Cheeky Monkey restaurant, deck and play-park on the premises burnt down, and only the walls of the restaurant remain.
According to the most recent statement shared by the sanctuary on its Facebook page, the Chacma Baboon enclosure was the first animal enclosure to catch alight, the fencing of it eventually melting. The baboons inside were stuck in a tree with the fire raging beneath them, and sanctuary workers feared they would be burnt alive.
Even with the fencing gone, the baboons were too scared to leave the enclosure and stayed in the tree until this morning, when workers managed to trap one of them. According to Monkey Town’s statement, the other baboon is now in one of the managers’ houses.
The fire continued to spread to the Lion-tailed Macaque enclosure and that of the miniature donkeys nearby.
Despite the flames in the animal enclosures, all of the animals are safe and none were harmed, the centre confirmed. “We are mostly thankful that no animal or human was injured!,” it said.
The sanctuary looks after over 250 monkeys from 26 different species, as well as 400 other animals, from alpacas to donkeys.
While the fire has been extinguished, it’s still unclear what caused it. In its statement, Monkey Town requested that the public not speculate about the cause of the fire, and that the sanctuary is currently waiting for the fire report from the City’s Fire and Rescue Service.
“Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. We have a lot of damage on the property. We are all in shock as to what happened here last night. It was terrifying,” the sanctuary said.
Monkey Town will be operational again from tomorrow.
Picture: Monkey Town Facebook