Aardvark killed, meerkats presumed dead as fire shuts London Zoo

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

    (CNN) -- An aardvark has died and four meerkats are unaccounted for and presumed dead after a blaze broke out Saturday morning at ZSL London Zoo, forcing its closure, the zoo said.

A number of zoo staff have been treated for smoke inhalation and shock, the zoo said in a statement posted to its website.

"All other animals in the vicinity are being monitored closely by our vets, but early signs suggest they have not been affected. We will continue to monitor them over the coming days," the zoo said. "We are all naturally devastated by this, but are immensely grateful to the fire brigade, who reacted quickly to the situation to bring the fire under control."

The zoo -- an iconic London attraction in Regent's Park -- was closed to visitors Saturday, but after consulting with fire experts, it said it's confident it can open safely on Sunday morning.

The aardvark that died was identified as a female named Misha. According to the zoo's website, the termite-loving creature was about 10 years old. Aardvarks originate in sub-Saharan Africa and are nocturnal.The fire broke out at about 6 a.m. in the Animal Adventure section of the zoo, designed for children, and spread to a nearby shop, the zoo said.

Zoo staff members were at the scene within minutes, and the fire was brought under control with firefighters' help about three hours later.

Staff will work with fire investigators to determine the cause of the blaze, the zoo said.

London Fire Brigade said it had sent 10 fire engines and more than 70 firefighters to the zoo after the alarm was raised. It said the fire affected part of an animal petting area as well as a shop and cafe.

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