PORT CLINTON, Ohio (WJW) — Investigators are still working to determine that cause of the devastating barn fire that took the lives of ten animals at African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton Thanksgiving day.
Three giraffes, three bongos, three red river hogs and a springbok died after their barn was destroyed by the fire, which broke out at around 6:15 p.m.
Officials released information about the animals lost in the fire at a press conference Friday afternoon. They were identified as:
1. Giraffe, Waylon, 3 years, a resident since 2010
2. Giraffe, Quinn, 1.5 years, a resident since June 2019
3. Giraffe, Beltre, 2.5 years old, who arrived this week
4. Red River Hog -Merlin, 9 years, resident since 2012
5 & 6. Two Red River hog sisters, 7 years, that arrived at the park this week. Named RJ and Priscilla, they were to join Merlin in the new red river hog exhibit constructed this year.
7. Springbok, Chip, 9 years, lived at African Safari for 7 years 8. Bongo, Tank, 15 years, lived at the park since 2006. A staff favorite, he always greeted keepers at the door for head scratches.
9. Bongo, Diesel, 10 years, resident since 2010
10. Bongo, Binti, 5 years, resident for 4 years. Keepers were hoping she would have a baby in early spring 2020.
During the incident, staff on site also managed to free a zebra in a habitat attached to the burning building. The zebra is in good condition under veterinary care.
Fearing the fire might jump to another nearby barn, staff released two giraffe and a zebra from the second building. Video being shared on social media shows one of these giraffe running through the park in front of the burning barn. All three animals have now been brought back into the safety of their barn.
The park was closed for the holiday, but a worker spotted the flames after the lights flickered. By the time firefighters arrived, the barn was engulfed. Fire officials say explosions were heard inside the structure, most likely from propane tanks. They were able to contain the fire to the one barn.
Officials say they have yet to determine the cause or precise origin of the fire. However, nothing at this time suggests a criminal act; it could be an accidental fire or the result of a natural disaster or weather.
Due to the devastation of the fire and the building's total collapse, fire officials said it could take weeks to complete their investigation.
Holly Hunt, co-owner of the park, says that recovery has begun. Team members are caring for the more than 400 other animals living at the 100-acre park, especially those that were frightened by the fire.
She says the animals held in the adjacent barn nearby seem to be in ok health.
Grief counseling is also being provided to the staff, who Hunt says are devastated the loss of life.
The park is closed Friday. It is unclear if the park, which was scheduled to close for the season on Sunday, will reopen at all this weekend as authorities are still investigating.
Hunt says those interested in helping can donate to a conservation fund that was established following the tragedy.
"Our Park is deeply committed to the conservation of all wildlife and to helping people appreciate these wonderful animals. Many people are asking what they can do to help, which we deeply appreciate," Hunt said during the press conference. “We are establishing a memorial as part of our Guardian of Wildlife fund from which all donations go to wildlife conservation, including supporting giraffe conservation. We all love wildlife and want to turn this tragedy into a positive for wildlife.”
You can make a donation, here.