Staff at a New Brunswick zoo are investigating the tragic deaths of two African baboons. They were accidentally left out in the cold overnight on Monday as temperatures in Moncton dipped to -20 C.

Bruce Dougan of the Magnetic Hill Zoo, where the incident took place, told CTV Newsnet on Wednesday the animals were mistakenly locked out of their cages by a staff member. The worker had been cleaning the interior of their cage.

Dougan said zoo officials have to temporarily lock a passageway to clean the cage. When it isn't locked, the passage allows the baboons to enter and leave the indoor cage on their own. On Monday, however, the zoo staffer forgot to unlock the gate after cleaning it and leaving food for the animals.

The baboons -- who were put outside about 3:30 p.m. on Monday -- became trapped in the cold winter night.

Lisa, a 20-year-old female baboon, was found dead in an outside shelter. Ernie, a 20-year-old male, died about two hours after he was found huddled against his cage door.

"It is very upsetting for the zoo staff," Dougan said.

"They're all very distraught about this incident. None is more distraught than the keeper who made the tragic error. We're having to comfort that keeper and give her our support going forward."

Dougan said zoo staff members -- who have strong bonds with the animals under their care -- have been shaken by the tragedy.

He said the zoo has taken immediate short-term steps to make sure such an incident doesn't happen again. One of the steps includes a visual inspection of the zoo to make sure the animals are safely secured at night.

Dougan said a full review of the incident is also under way.

Lisa and Ernie were born at the zoo. Their parents had come from a research facility in Dartmouth, N.S., in 1986. They were Olive baboons, a species that can live to the age of 45.

With files from The Canadian Press