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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 15:43 GMT
Two giraffes killed in zoo fire
Paignton Zoo's baby giraffe
The baby giraffe was born a week ago
A one-week-old baby giraffe and its mother have died in a fire at Paignton Zoo in Devon.

Two elephants, a male giraffe and a zookeeper had a narrow escape from the blaze, which broke out among hay bales.

The baby giraffe was born on Monday last week to Kizi and father Paddy after a 15-month gestation period.

Some 35 firefighters tackled the blaze on Sunday evening. The fire service said early indications were that it was accidental.

Everyone connected with the zoo will be devastated by this
Philip Knowling, Paignton Zoo

The fire started just after 1930 GMT. A distraught zookeeper watched in horror as the blaze engulfed Kizi and her calf.

He had to be prevented by fire officers from trying to save them. Male giraffe Paddy was saved by zoo staff.

No staff member was injured, but there is concern for Paddy who suffered from smoke inhalation. He has not eaten since the fire, and a vet was going to try and boost him with vitamins, the zoo said.

Devon Fire and Rescue Service said the early indications were that the blaze was accidental and possibly caused by an electric fault in the giraffe and elephant accommodation.

It was thought to have started in either the birth compound, or in plywood erected to protect the baby from hurting itself on metal bars. There was no structural damage.

It is not the first time tragedy has struck this family of giraffes.

Kizi and Paddy's last baby was born in September 2004, but died of heart failure shortly afterwards.

Two previous calves, Kizlet and Zoolu, had to be hand-reared after being rejected by Kizi.

The mother, who was born in August 1993 and came to Paignton Zoo in May 2000, seemed to have taken to her newborn this time, zoo staff said.

Open mind

Zoo spokesman Philip Knowling said of the fire: "It's a very sad day and an absolute tragedy. All the staff, volunteers and everyone connected with the zoo will be devastated by this.

"It was so young that we didn't know for sure the sex, and it was the first calf that Kizi had accepted and mothered. So for this to happen, it takes you from one extreme to the other."

Mr Knowling said well-wishers had sent e-mails of support and had also left cards and flowers at the gate.

He added that the zoo's website was receiving 6,000 hits an hour - compared to the normal 1,000 - as messages of sympathy flooded in.

"There is a lot of goodwill for us out there," he said.

The zoo was made famous after it featured in a BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary called Zookeepers.


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See the male giraffe that survived the fire



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