Dallas Zoo Update on Monkey Theft


A close-up portrait of an emperor tamarin, showing its long moustache and staring alertly to the right | Image by Alan Tunnicliffe, Shutterstock

The Dallas Zoo held a press conference Friday to update the situation at the Dallas Zoo, where animals have been stolen and tampered with.

During the press conference, which was attended by The Dallas Express, Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of the Dallas Zoo, confirmed to reporters that the suspect arrested by the Dallas Police Department was neither an employee nor a volunteer and only had access as a visitor as far as he knew.

But he did say the zoo was in the process of making changes to avoid a repeat of this situation.

“We’re working on putting in control and upping security to make sure that these things do not happen again,” Hudson said. “We’ve talked about this before, but we’ve added more cameras throughout the facility. We’ve added patrols, we’re evaluating all of our internal policies on security, and bringing in outside experts because of the heightened kind of intensity of this kind of crime. It’s kind of unprecedented for us to ever have to go through [this].”

Hudson also said he wanted to share the Dallas Zoo’s experience with other zoos across the country.

“We’re focused on preventing this from ever happening again,” he said.

Harrison Edell, vice president of animal affairs and conservation, said the zoo continues to grieve for the endangered vulture that was killed. The vulture, named Pin, was found dead with an unnatural wound, which the police department is still investigating and is not connected to the most recent arrest.

He also said the zoo was helping the other animals that were let loose or stolen back into their enclosures. Officials said there was evidence that certain enclosures in the zoo had been tampered with.

“Nova was introduced to her sister Luna after her adventure,” Edell said, referring to a clouded snow leopard found missing on January 13, which started off the bizarre incidents at the Dallas Zoo.

He said the missing animals were initially stressed but are doing better now.

“We’re treating their return to the zoo like they came from an unknown source, so they’re in medical quarantine now,” he said.

A man was arrested Thursday for the alleged theft of the two emperor tamarin monkeys, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Davion Irvin, 24, was arrested for the alleged theft and charged with six counts of cruelty to non-livestock animals.

He was also charged with two counts of burglary to a building in connection with the clouded snow leopard and the tamarin monkey cases, according to a police blog from DPD.

DPD said further charges are possible as Irvin was allegedly linked to tampering with the langur monkey enclosure. However, none of the langur monkeys were taken or escaped.

“Our detectives interviewed staff, they interviewed people from around the neighborhood, they obviously interviewed citizens in Lancaster and Dallas as well, and the investigation led us to this individual,” said Kristin Lowman, spokesperson for the Dallas Police Department.

She said they are aware of how the monkeys were taken out of their habitat, but it was part of an ongoing investigation. She said that tips from people in Lancaster led to the monkeys being found.

“What’s important to realize is the monkeys are back, we’re looking into the case of the vulture now,” Lowman said.

According to Edell, the Dallas Zoo has almost 2,000 animals that live there.

“These aren’t just miscellaneous, anonymous animals,” Edell said. “These are animals that we have relationships with. They are just as much a part of the Dallas Zoo family as any of the staff are.”

Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold, whose District 4 encompasses the Dallas Zoo, said during the press conference that the City of Dallas was taking every precaution to work with the zoo in regard to this case.

“I want to reaffirm and be assured that we are here to support the zoo in any way we can,” King Arnold said. “This is almost like a tale of two cities between Dallas and Lancaster and thank goodness that we were able to get information from those individuals in Lancaster. I think we’re going to just underscore the need to ‘if you see something, say something.'”

The Dallas Zoo released a statement intended to round out what it spoke to the media about Friday:

“We are unbelievably grateful to the Dallas Police Department for their persistence and dedication on these incidents,” the statement reads. “We also are thankful to our Zoo staff for providing information that supported this investigation. We can share with you that our on-grounds cameras were critical as they captured suspicious activities, and we were able to share that with DPD. We also want to thank the team at the Dallas World Aquarium who recognized an individual from the photo circulated by DPD and reported it.”

The statement said they are focusing on the welfare of the animals, including helping the tamarin monkeys gain back the weight they lost.

“It has been an emotional roller coaster these last few weeks, but this arrest brings a bit of good news. We remain vigilant even while feeling a bit of relief,” the statement said.

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