All the ‘dangerous animals’ - including bears and big cats - have been evacuated from a wildlife park in the south of France after a huge fire broke out last night (Thursday, November 23).
EcoZonia is unique in Europe for providing dedicated habitats for several species of large predators, such as the Siberian tiger, the brown bear and the Amur panther.
The blaze began at around 20:30 at the 26-hectare park in Cases-de-Pène around 20 km from Perpignan, in Pyrénées-Orientales (Occitanie).
The fire broke out as the department was placed on high alert due to strong winds, compounded by the ongoing drought conditions that still affect much of the area.
You can see a clip of the fired shared on social media site Facebook below.
Around 170 firefighters attended the scene, and worked quickly to contain the outbreak, which they feared could spread quickly due to high winds, said Lieutenant Colonel Fabien Vergez.
Five people - thought to include workers and the family that runs the park - were evacuated to a local communal hall. The town’s 1,000 residents were asked to ‘remain at home’ in the evening, and all others were advised not to visit the area or block the roads, to allow full access for the emergency services.
By 22:50, no more flames were visible, and there were no reports of injury or damage to workers, animals, or park infrastructure (beyond the burnt vegetation).
“The dangerous animals have been evacuated securely and isolated by the park’s directors,” said the Cases-de-Pène mairie, in a statement.
This morning (November 24), managers posted an update reading: “To date, all the animals are doing well and there has been no damage to the zoological structures. Our [animal] residents will be closely monitored by the zoo team and the park's vets over the coming days.”
Park director Cyril Vaccaro said the incident had had a “favourable outcome”.
EcoZonia, which is at the edge of the Corbières-Fenouillèdes regional nature reserve, will remain closed for at least a week during repair operations.