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Dozens of exotic animals were killed Friday after an electrical fire broke out at a South Carolina animal park, according to news reports.
The fire, sparked by an electrical short and later ruled an accident, began around 8:30 a.m. and quickly killed 27 animals housed in a single building at Hollywild Animal Park in Wellford, S.C., according to the Greenville Times.
The paper reported that the dead animals include “seven lemurs, four chimpanzees, four wolf hybrid puppies, three tortoises, two capuchins, two baboons, two mangabeys, a bear cub, an African crowned crane, and one barn cat.”
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“This is very devastating to me and the entire Hollywild family,” the facility’s veterinarian, Beverly Hargus, told the Times. “At this point, we do not feel any animals are suffering. None were burned. The survivors are recovering from smoke inhalation. It appears it was a quick and painless death for the animals that died.”
The 14 survivors included “five tortoises, one wallaroo, two baboons, one dog, two wolf hybrid puppies, one ring-tailed lemur, and 2-year-old bear cubs,” according to Fox Carolina.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals lists more than 50 instances dating back to 1991 in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited Hollywild for failure to meet minimum federal standards for the care of animals featured in the exhibition. In a statement released to the media, Delicianna Winders, PETA deputy general counsel, called for Hollywild to be shut down, according to news reports.
Enough is enough. There’s been enough neglect at Hollywild Animal Park, PETA has filed enough complaints about this decrepit facility, and the authorities have cited it for enough violations of federal animal-protection law. Hollywild’s dangerously ramshackle enclosures and failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care should have gotten it shut down long ago, and now dozens of animals have died. PETA is calling on the authorities to take action, strip Hollywild of its license, and ensure that no more animals die.
Fire investigators found burned wires and tripped breakers that were connected to the facility’s lighting, according to the Times. Holly Springs Fire Chief Brent Blackwell told the paper the fire could have happened anywhere.
“The fire traveled up into the ceiling and spread, causing the building to fill [with] smoke,” he said. “The fire died out on its own, but there were still hot spots when we arrived.”
Hollywild staffers said the death toll could have been higher, according to Fox Carolina. They credited staffer Jay Gossett, the first person on the scene, for opening the building’s doors to ventilate the facility as it filled with smoke and calling for help.
“Jay is definitely a hero here,” Richie Sanders, Hollywild’s animal staff supervisor, told the station. “His quick action helped other animals survive.”
Hollywild will have a private memorial service for staff only at 1 p.m. Sunday, according to Fox.
“We are all heartsick about the loss of our family members,” David Meeks, Hollywild’s executive director told Fox. “We are all grieving. We appreciate the care and concern being offered to our community and the larger Hollywild family that includes the thousands of people who have made personal connections to the park and the hundreds of animals who live here.”