Dozens of animals were burnt alive after a fire swept through a monkey sanctuary at the Krefeld zoo in Germany just hours after the new year began
In a report by Daily Mail, the city's head of criminal police said that several witnesses reported seeing paper lanterns with little fires inside flying near the zoo shortly after midnight on Wednesday, 1 January.
The police later found three Chinese sky lanterns with hand-written New Year's wishes in the smouldering debris.
After authorities held a news conference about the blaze, a mother and her two daughters turned themselves in to the police
According to Sky News, the women - aged between 30 and 60 - went to a police station on 1 January and admitted to setting off the lanterns.
Police chief Gerd Hoppmann described them as "completely normal people who seemed very sensible, very responsible", as quoted by Sky News.
He also explained that the women ordered five Chinese sky lanterns online, intending to launch them with good wishes, but did not know that they were illegal in the country.
They are now suspected of negligent arson, which can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.
The fire burnt the zoo's entire tropical ape house down
According to Daily Mail, more than 30 animals, including five orangutans, a 48-year-old silverback gorilla named Massa, a chimpanzee, several monkeys, as well as fruit bats, and birds, were either burnt alive or died from smoke inhalation.
Zoo director Wolfgang Dressen also said that many of the dead animals were close to extinction in the wild.
Fortunately, firefighters managed to save two chimpanzees and a family of gorillas
Firefighters rescued chimpanzees Bally and Limbo, who suffered burns but are in stable condition, according to Dressen.
In addition to the two chimpanzees, BBC also reported that gorilla Kidogo and his six other family members managed to survive.
The gorillas were in a neighbouring Gorilla Garden which was not affected as the firefighters were able to prevent the flames spreading from the ape house.
To mourn the loss of the animals, members of the public left candles, notes, stuffed toys, and flowers at the zoo's entrance