The Dallas Zoo is investigating the suspicious death of one of its endangered species over the weekend.
A vulture was found dead by the Dallas Zoo Animal Care Team inside its habitat Saturday morning. The male lappet-faced vulture, named Pin, had been wounded.
Pin lived in the “Wilds of Africa” habitat and the 35-year-old was one of the approximately 6,500 left of the species.
Officials are describing the circumstances for the creature’s death as unusual. After the animal underwent a routine necropsy, results pointed away from the likelihood of death being natural.
Gregg Hudson, president and CEO of Dallas Zoo, said he has never seen anything like it in his 30 years in the zoo business.
“If it’s related to anything that happened with the clouded leopard before, it’s definitely crossed some sort of barrier that goes from being about malicious and criminal intent to being dangerous and we’re extremely concerned about it,” Hudson said at a Monday press conference attended by The Dallas Express.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, two pens were recently tampered with at the zoo. The first led to the escape and eventual recapture of Nova, a clouded leopard, while the other, occurring at the langur monkey enclosure, thankfully was without consequence.
Zoo officials alerted the Dallas Police Department (DPD) of the bird’s suspicious death, prompting the animal cruelty department to open an ongoing investigation.
DPD spokesperson Kristin Lowman said authorities have been interviewing zoo staff as well as checking any footage that could explain Pin’s death.
“In addition, we contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They are now assisting us in this investigation due to the type of bird it is,” she said.
Before the incident, the zoo was secured with over 100-plus cameras. DPD has since loaned the zoo equipment to step security measures up a notch, adding portable solar tower units that help increase the range across the 110-acre park.
“We have also more than doubled our security presence on the grounds overnight and have increased staff presence overnight as well,” Hudson said.
Hudson said police are not sure if the death of Pin was an internal job, but the habitat was not damaged and could only be accessed through authorized entrances.
Harrison Edell, the zoo’s executive vice president for animal care and conservation, said he was disturbed to know someone might’ve done this. He said the other three lappet-faced vultures in the same habitat were unharmed.
Another precaution the zoo is taking to protect animals is limiting outside access during overnight hours.
The zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to arrest and indictment.
While the zoo has had three incidents in the last 10 days, authorities are not yet sure if they are related.