DUDLEY Zoo and Castle bosses have issued a warning to the public not to let off sky lanterns and helium balloons after a number of recent near misses in animal enclosures which could have had devastating consequences.

Bosses at the zoo say in the last week staff have retrieved a children’s helium balloon from the otter enclosure, found a used sky lantern in the 11th century castle courtyard and another on the roof of the Sumatran tiger dens.

A spokesman for the attraction in Castle Hill said: "Thankfully, none of our animals or historic buildings were harmed, but it could have been a very different outcome."

"Sky lanterns often contain a metal frame, which holds the burner. Not only do they pose a serious fire risk to buildings, crops and woodland, but they can so easily be ingested by animals, who can also get tangled in the lantern’s framework or balloon string.

"And even if helium balloons and lanterns are sold as biodegradable and metal free, they will still take months to decompose, littering the landscape where they fell, while also remaining a danger to wildlife."

People are urged to consider environmentally friendly celebrations instead such as planting flowers or trees, blowing bubbles using eco-friendly solution or even flying kites.

The zoo is currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Anyone wishing to show their support for its exotic inhabitants can make a donation via its online Covid-19 Animal Care Fund on the JustGiving website.