UPDATE (5:06 p.m.)– Miller Park Zoo has released the following update:

The Miller Park Zoo team is thankful for the rapid and effective response of all persons involved in last evening’s emergency event. Some of the animals were securely relocated to other holding areas, while those that could not be moved were carefully monitored for any signs of medical distress. When animal care staff finally left the zoo at 12:30 am, all the animals impacted during the incident were alive and safe. Staff arrived early first thing this morning to check the health of these animals, and were hopeful as each appeared responsive and secure. Our veterinary team arrived soon after and coordinated with zookeepers to assess the health of each animal that had been housed in the affected building, exposed to smoke inhalation and related particulates. Some precautionary measures or treatments were implemented for specific animals. Unfortunately, later in the day our team had to make the decision to humanely euthanize our reticulated python, “Nani”. Nani was under veterinary observation for recent changes in health and behavior; less than a week ago our team conducted a comprehensive medical exam. As the smoke last night originated from Nani’s enclosure, she was exposed for longer than the other animals until our team, with assistance from members of the Bloomington Fire Department, were able to safely remove and relocate her. The smoke exposure and inhalation affected her health so significantly that her prognosis for recovery was poor. Animal care and veterinary staff agreed that euthanasia was the correct decision for Nani’s wellbeing. This is never an easy decision for people who have dedicated their lives to providing daily care for these animals. It was made even more difficult due the heroic efforts of all involved in assisting the animals during the crisis.

Nani was an 11-year-old reticulated python who came to the Miller Park Zoo in January of 2017. During her last physical exam, she measured 20 feet in length and 254 pounds in weight. We believe that Nani was the longest reticulated python in AZA. Zookeepers affectionately described Nani as “sweet but feisty”; she was most active when “smelling” and investigating items or enrichment that had previously been in with the tiger. 

As our zoo team works through last night’s challenging events, now including the loss of one of their favorite animals, please know that everyone remains dedicated to the animals at the Miller Park Zoo. The zoo team is grateful to our City colleagues, our astute Security officer, the U of I veterinary team, and the Bloomington Fire Department for their timely assistance in resolving these events. As always, the ongoing support and respect from the community for our valued employees and volunteers is greatly appreciated.

Miller Park Zoo

UPDATE (4:58 p.m.)– Zoo Director Jay Pratte was quoted as saying, “A fire is a difficult enough situation and then you add potentially dangerous animals in with that and they were very flexible in how they allowed us to take care of the other animals that we needed to while still doing their primary job. So, we are incredibly thankful for the quick response of our security guard, the timeliness of the city, but also of our fire and rescue team because without all that this could have been much worse than it was.”

Miller Park Zoo

 He continued, “We were very lucky there was minimal damage outside of the smoke and the water obviously of the treatment of what appeared to be the fire but there’s no structural damage even the one habitat that was affected has minimal damage outside of what we needed to do to address the fire.”

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — The Bloomington Fire Department responded to a smoldering heating device at Miller Park Zoo Monday night.

According to Bloomington’s Communications & External Affairs Manager Katherine Murphy, a security guard noticed smoke coming from the Katthoefer Building while doing his rounds at approximately 9:30 p.m. and called the fire department.

The Bloomington Fire Department immediately responded, according to Murphy.

According to Miller Park Zoo Director Jay Pratte, zoo staff also responded and gave animals in the building outside access or relocated them to different enclosures. Animals in the building included tigers, primates, and a 20-foot python.

Pratte stated that a heating device was not functioning as intended and was smoldering and releasing smoke in the python enclosure.

A Bloomington Fire Department news release stated that the fire was contained to the enclosure and no firefighters, zoo staff or animals were injured.

“We worked very well with zookeepers to ensure the safety of the animals. The situation was unique, but our people were up for the challenge,” Bloomington Fire Chief Eric West said.

All the animals are believed to be ok, and vets will check the animals on Tuesday morning. The zoo is also assessing the building for smoke and water damage.