When we ring in the New Year, most of us like to do it with a bang. In fact, fireworks and festivities have long been a part of that celebration, but more and more sky lanterns have become part of that tradition, too.
It's easy to see why. Videos of sky lanterns being released into the air are magical. But as beautiful a sight as they are, they also pose a real danger to people, animals, and the environment. Sometimes they can even kill. That's exactly what happened this New Year's at Krefeld Zoo in Germany.
Sign to ask Germany to ban sky lanterns nationwide.
On new year's night, someone released a sky lantern into the nearby area. But instead of flying high into the sky and burning out, the paper contraption floated for a while but then came to rest on the plastic roof of the Krefeld Zoo's Great Ape House. The roof quickly caught fire igniting the rest of the structure and leading to the horrific and needless death of more than 30 of the animals most beloved primates. Some of the victims include endangered gorillas and orangutans along with chimpanzees and marmosets.
While the person who caused the fire most certainly hadn't planned on causing such destruction, the fact is that the practice of releasing an uncontrolled, burning paper structure into the air to meander unguided is inherently dangerous.
A simple Google search about sky lanterns will turn up story after story about accidents they have caused. In 2013, a solitary sky lantern started a 500-acre wildfire in Washington that took 100 firefighters to extinguish. In 2011, 800 acre burned for three days in South Carolina. And in India, 15 people suffered injuries after a sky lantern landed on a building.
The 30 primates that lost their lives because of this dangerous contraption aren't even the first disaster in Germany. In 2009, following the death of a 10-year-old boy caused by a lantern, three German states passed bans. Yet, they are still legal in over a dozen more. Sky lanterns don't just drop from the sky and put themselves out when they reach a state border. No, they keep on floating, flying miles before they fall from the sky - and potentially start a fire.
That's why it is so important that Germany take action and ban these lanterns nationwide.
Sign if you agree.
Update 2/16/20: We've learned that in addition to the 30 initially reported casualties other primates also eventually had to be euthanized, including a gorilla.