A MAJOR fire at Chester Zoo that claimed the lives of a number of animals was caused by an electrical fault, experts have concluded.

Fire investigators confirmed the blaze at the Monsoon Forest attraction on Saturday, December 15, was started accidentally.

Area manager at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Lee Shears said: “This was a large and complex operation involving more than 80 firefighters from Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales Fire and Rescue Services.

“Firefighters and zoo staff worked closely together in an incredibly challenging situation to evacuate the building and rescue as many animals as possible.

Chester and District Standard:

Chester Zoo after a fire broke out in the Monsoon Forest habitat area. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

“The professionalism and expertise of the staff at the zoo meant that many precious species were saved.”

Jamie Christon, Chester Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “We’re grateful that the Fire and Rescue Service has been able to conclude its investigation into the cause of the fire so swiftly and would again like to thank them for their valiant efforts on the day, which helped us to rescue so many animals and minimise the extent of the damage.

“Our efforts now will focus on rebuilding Monsoon Forest so we can return some very special species back to their home and continue our mission to prevent extinction.”

The community has been in shock this week following the blaze at the city's world-famous zoo.

Keepers managed to save the larger mammals, including six orangutans, 18 macaques, and four gibbons by waving bananas to entice them away from danger.

But sadly a number of birds, snakes, frogs and other smaller creatures perished in the fire which took hold at around 11.30am.

The Monsoon Forest area remains closed to the public four days on from the fire and well-wishers have so far raised more than £140,000 towards the zoo's conservation work.

Mr Christon said Saturday was "one of the toughest days in the zoo's long history".