Recovery begins after devastating Thanksgiving fire at African Safari Wildlife Park

November 29, 2019

Team members caring for Park animals and each other after 10 animals perish in barn fire; supportive community reaching out

PORT CLINTON, Ohio, November 29th, 2019 – Following a devastating Thanksgiving fire that killed 10 animals, the staff at African Safari Wildlife Park are working today to care for animals frightened by the fire and caring for one another after the trauma.

“We’re so grateful to the community and first responders who are helping us through this terrible event. Thousands of people have reached out with condolences and offers of support,” said Holly Hunt, co-owner of the Wildlife Park, that is closed today. “Despite being so saddened by losing 10 animals we loved, our team is here caring for the more than 400 other animals living in the park. Thankfully they are all safe. We are providing grief counseling to our team members, who are heartbroken by the loss, ” she said.

The fire was discovered about 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Fire officials are on the scene today continuing their evaluation. The building was completely destroyed, and 10 animals, housed inside, perished.

Staff on site when the fire was discovered managed to free a zebra in a habitat attached to the burning building. It is in good condition under veterinary care. Four other zebras in an adjacent enclosure also appear in good health after last night’s trauma.

Fearing the fire might jump to another nearby barn, staff released two giraffe and a zebra from the second building. One of these giraffe is pictured in many media stories in front of the burning barn, and all three have now been brought back into the safety of their barn.

“The fire was traumatic for all the animals, particularly those closest to the flames. They are under the care of our veterinarians, who were also at the park throughout the night as we brought the animals back inside,” Hunt said. “We cannot express how appreciative we are to the team members, the firefighters and police officers who were here helping manage this crisis.”


Wildlife Park animals lost in the fire are:

1. Giraffe, Waylon, 3 years, a resident since 2010.

2. Giraffe, Quinn, 1.5 years, a resident since June 2019.

3. Giraffe, Beltre, 2.5 years old, who arrived this week.

4. Red River Hog -Merlin, 9 years, resident since 2012.

5 & 6. Two Red River Hog sisters, 7 years, that arrived at the Park this week. Named RJ and Priscilla, they were to join Merlin in the new red river hog exhibit constructed this year.

7. Springbok, Chip, 9 years, lived at African Safari for 7 years.

8. Bongo, Tank, 15 years, lived at the park since 2006. A staff favorite, he always greeted keepers at the door for head scratches.

9. Bongo, Diesel, 10 years, resident since 2010.

10. Bongo, Binti, 5 years, resident for 4 years. Keepers were hoping she would have a baby in early spring 2020.


A wooden-framed structure with sheet metal siding, the barn was partially heated to ensure appropriate temperatures for the exotic animals. Built in the early 1980s, the barn was not equipped with a fire suppression system. It did have remote temperature sensors to help ensure comfortable temperatures for the animals.

Officials have not determined a cause of the fire yet. The building was totally destroyed and firefighters were on site until 3 a.m. this morning managing the scene.


Hunt said: “Our Park is deeply committed to the conservation of all wildlife and to helping people appreciate these wonderful animals. Many people are asking what they can do to help, which we deeply appreciate.

“We are establishing a memorial as part of our Guardian of Wildlife fund from which all donations go to wildlife conservation, including supporting giraffe conservation. We all love wildlife and want to turn this tragedy into a positive for wildlife.”

Donations are currently being accepted at:

For updates, please follow African Safari Wildlife Park’s Website and Facebook page.

The Ohio Safari Park

African Safari Wildlife Park Media Contact:
Kelsey Keller
267 S. Lightner Road, Port Clinton, OH 43452