Missing monkeys at Dallas Zoo: Suspect tampered with leopard and monkey enclosures, police say


Authorities say the man arrested in the alleged theft of a pair of emperor tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo earlier this week was also involved in tampering with other zoo habitats.

Davion Irvin, 24, was arrested Thursday on six counts of non-livestock animal cruelty in connection with the monkeys, the Dallas Police Department said in a news release. He was taken into custody at the Dallas World Aquarium, where authorities ‘believe he was seeking to commit another crime,’ Dallas police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman said Friday at a conference call. Press.

The monkeys’ disappearance follows a series of suspicious incidents at the zoo in recent weeks involving a leopard, langur monkeys and a vulture, all of which have led to increased security, including more cameras, patrols and night staff.

Authorities say they have unraveled the mysteries and charged Irvin with burglary in connection with cuts to zoo enclosures for tamarin monkeys and clouded leopards. Police say he was also “linked” to the langur monkey case but has not been charged in the incident.

A lappet-faced vulture was found dead in its habitat at the zoo on January 21. Lowman said Irvin is currently not charged in the animal’s death, but authorities are continuing to investigate.

Police declined to comment on details of the investigation, including a possible motive, but say they believe they know what happened to the tamarins. “We know how he got the monkeys out,” Lowman said.

Jail records show Irvin remained in the Dallas County Jail Friday afternoon on $25,000 bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney, but CNN asked the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office.

Zoo officials said Irvin had no known connection to the zoo and they were continuing to tighten security around the facility in response. “This is really, really unprecedented,” said zoo president and CEO Gregg Hudson.

The tamarin monkeys disappeared Monday from a habitat that had been “intentionally compromised”, the zoo said, adding that Dallas police said they had reason to believe they were “intentionally removed from the enclosure”. The zoo was closed on Monday due to bad weather, it announced earlier, with the closure extended until Wednesday due to an ice storm.

The animals were found safe and sound a day later in an abandoned home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles from the zoo. Authorities say the surveillance footage contributed to a tip that led police to the monkeys at the house. Upon their return to the zoo, the monkeys were quarantined, the zoo said.

One of the missing monkeys was found in the closet of an abandoned house.

“Emperor tamarin monkeys Bella and Finn were so happy to snuggle up in their nesting bag here at the zoo last night!” the zoo posted on Facebook. “Our veterinary and animal care teams said that in addition to losing some weight, they showed no signs of injury and both started eating and drinking almost immediately once the team finished the health checks on Tuesday evening.”

On January 13, a clouded leopard named Nova disappeared from its enclosure and the zoo closed to conduct a search for the animal. Police launched a criminal investigation after discovering that the fence around Nova’s compound had been “intentionally cut”, they said. Later that day, Nova was found near her habitat.

Meanwhile, zoo staff observed a similar cut in the enclosure of some langur monkeys, but none escaped, the zoo said.

The problems prompted the zoo to step up security, including installing more cameras and beefing up security and night staff, Hudson said. Restrictions have also been placed on the animals’ ability to go out at night, he added.

On January 21, the lappet-faced vulture named Pin was found dead in its habitat. “The circumstances of death are unusual and death does not appear to be from natural causes,” the zoo said in a statement.

The bird’s death was “suspicious” and he suffered “an unusual wound and injury,” Hudson said.

Authorities are investigating the death and Irvin has not been charged in connection with the incident. The zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charging of a suspect in the vulture’s death.


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