Suspect Arrested for String of Mysterious Incidents at Dallas Zoo (Updates)

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Feb. 6 2023, Updated 9:49 a.m. ET

Dallas Zoo Missing Animals, Monkey Escape
Source: Getty Images

An emperor tamarin monkey, native to the Amazon rainforest, is fed in its new home in the living rainforest enclosure at ZSL London Zoo on March 25, 2010 in London, England.

Wild animals deserve to live in the wild — not in zoos, where animals are deprived of their natural habitat, natural behaviors, and space to roam, and are instead forced to live in captivity. And there's someone in Dallas, Texas who evidently has a problem with all that, as there have been a whopping four suspicious incidents involving missing and dead animals at the Dallas Zoo this month alone.

Most recently, two emperor tamarin monkeys escaped — or, perhaps were stolen — from the zoo. Police have already launched an investigation to determine what happened.

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Keep reading for a timeline of these four suspicious events, which involve the emperor tamarin monkeys, langur monkeys, a clouded leopard, and a vulture — oh my!

Jan. 13: A clouded leopard went missing on the zoo's grounds.

On Friday, Jan. 13, zookeepers at the Dallas Zoo noticed that a clouded leopard named Nova was missing from her enclosure, as reported by The New York Times. The zoo promptly closed for the day. After looking for the 25-pound leopard all day, employees found her at about 4:40 p.m.; by 5:15 p.m., they were "able to safely secure her" and return her to her enclosure, the zoo tweeted.

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Local police opened a criminal investigation into the incident. As per The New York Times, the police stated that they discovered a rip in the mesh surrounding the leopard enclosure, which crime scene investigators believe was made deliberately. The zoo then reopened to the public the next day.

Jan. 13: A slash was discovered in the fence surrounding the langur monkey habitat.

That same day, on Jan. 13, police discovered another cut in yet another animal enclosure.

“Zoo personnel showed investigators a similar cut found at a habitat that enclosed a breed of monkey known as langurs,” the Dallas Police Department said in a news release, as reported by CNN. “It is unknown if the two incidents are related.”

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It appears that none of the langur monkeys noticed the slash in their fence, as none of them escaped or appeared to be harmed, the police department added, as per ABC News.

Jan. 22: An endangered vulture was found dead at the Dallas Zoo.

On Sunday, Jan. 22, the zoo tweeted that over the weekend, staff discovered that an endangered lappet-faced vulture named Pin, who was kept in the Wilds of Africa habitats, had died. Pin was 35.

"The circumstances of the death are unusual, and the death does not appear to be from natural causes," the zoo stated, as per ABC News.

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Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson announced during a news conference that “an unusual wound and injuries” were found on Pin. The police are investigating this death.

After announcing the news of Pin's death on social media, the Dallas Zoo announced that in the time between the clouded leopard escaping her pen and the vulture's death, the zoo "added additional cameras throughout the zoo and increased onsite security patrols during the overnight hours," with plans to continue expanding security "to keep our animals and staff safe."

But evidently, the measures taken thus far have not been enough.

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Jan. 30: Two emperor tamarin monkeys escaped from the Dallas Zoo.

On the morning of Monday, Jan. 30, the Dallas Zoo announced that the zoo was closing for the day, due to incoming inclement weather in Texas. Soon after, the zoo tweeted that two emperor tamarin monkeys were missing from their pen.

"It was clear the habitat had been intentionally compromised," the zoo tweeted, adding that the police had been alerted.

"Based on the Dallas Police Department’s initial assessment, they have reason to believe the tamarins were taken," the zoo stated, adding that this is now part of an active investigation.

The zoo remained closed through Wednesday, Feb. 1 due to the cold weather, according to the zoo's Twitter.

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As CNN reported, one day after they went missing, the two emperor tamarin monkeys were found in an abandoned Texas home around 15 miles away from the Dallas Zoo. The monkeys appeared unharmed, but were quarantined once they got back to the zoo.

Feb. 3: A suspect was arrested in connection with the Dallas Zoo incidents.

On Friday, Feb. 3, news broke that the night prior, a 24-year-old suspect named Davion Irvin was arrested and charged with both animal cruelty and burglary, in connection with the two missing emperor tamarin monkeys, as well as the cut fence surrounding the clouded leopard; he has not yet been charged in relation to cutting the the fence surrounding the langur monkeys, The Dallas Morning News reported.

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A spokeswoman for the local police said that Irvin confessed to some of the zoo crimes; however, a family friend of his went on-record to assert that Irvin was innocent. Irvin’s bail stands at $25,000.

Despite the conservation work that zoos such as the Dallas Zoo boast about on their websites, it cannot be denied that the main purpose of zoos is to profit off of using animals (who are either taken from the wild or bred into captivity) for entertainment. Consider visiting or supporting an animal sanctuary instead of a zoo or aquarium.

This article, originally published on Jan. 31, 2023, was updated to include updates about the suspect.

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