Something weird is going on at the Dallas Zoo. A string of events is under investigation, most recently the disappearance of two emperor tamarin monkeys. They were believed to have been taken Monday morning. A zoo spokeswoman said it was “clear the habitat had been intentionally compromised.” Fortunately, the monkeys have been found unharmed and are back at the zoo.

Police said their habitat had been cut. The monkeys were likely taken as they typically stay close to their zoo home. The zoo was closed Monday due to a winter storm. The latest suspected theft follows other incidents in recent weeks.

The first incident took place Jan. 13, when a 4-year-old clouded leopard named Nova escaped from her enclosure after the mesh surrounding it was cut. She was found hours later near her habitat, unharmed. The day after she escaped, officials revealed a similar cut was found on an enclosure of langur monkeys, but all of the langurs were in their habitat and accounted for.

About a week later, a 35-year-old endangered vulture named Pin was found dead, and zoo staff quickly declared it “unusual.” After the zoo’s veterinary team conducted a necropsy — or an animal autopsy — they said the bird was found with a “wound,” but declined to expand on their findings because of the ongoing investigation.

The monkeys were found by members of a Lancaster church. They were found Tuesday evening inside their community house, next door to the church. Other animals were found inside the house, too, including birds, cats and chickens. The house is about twenty minutes from the zoo.

Today it is being reported that an arrest was make Thursday night. Davion Irvin, 24, was booked into the Dallas County jail Thursday night on five charges of animal cruelty. Police received a tip that Irvin was spotted near animal exhibits at the Dallas World Aquarium. Police shared surveillance images of a man and asked for the public’s help in identifying him. That led to the arrest of Irvin.

The Dallas Zoo is offering a $25,000 reward for any information regarding a string of strange incidents.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums isn’t blaming the Dallas Zoo for its problems.

The incidents are each being investigated as intentional acts. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits the Dallas Zoo, said the zoo’s accreditation is not in jeopardy.

“While recent incidents targeting animals at the Dallas zoo are troubling, AZA continues to maintain utmost confidence in the professional staff at Dallas Zoo,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of AZA, in a statement Tuesday. “Dallas Zoo and its animals are victims of acts, presumably intended to take animals for personal reasons, or worse, to be trafficked.”

Meanwhile, twelve squirrel monkeys that were stolen from Zoosiana, a Louisiana zoo, shortly before midnight Saturday remain missing. The thief targeted small primates. The squirrel monkey exhibit was “compromised.” The thief broke into the zoo and tried to gain access into the marmoset habitat. The thief wasn’t successful because the marmoset escaped its enclosure and was later caught by the zoo. Then they went to the squirrel monkey exhibit and broke into the main house where the monkeys sleep. There were 38 monkeys there and 12 were stolen. The thief came prepared with wire cutters, as well as tools to break locks and destroy the enclosure. The monkeys were taken in a burlap sack, one left behind at the scene.

The zoo owner is concerned about the health and well-being of the monkeys.

Oldenburg said the zoo does not know what happened to the monkeys and is very concerned about them because they are exotic animals and on a special diet. He is also worried that the thief may not be skilled enough to recognize if one of the monkeys is not healthy.

“People think monkeys eat bananas, that’s all you have to feed them, but no they are not going to survive on that,” Oldenburg said.

Oldenburg also said the theft was stressful on the animals that were not taken and was worried about their well-being, saying it was “cruel” and this kind of stress level could cause them to die.

“I’m angry that these were taken from me but I want to make sure that my animals were maintained and cared for properly,” Oldenburg said.

An investigation is underway. Whether or not this incident is related to the ones at the Dallas Zoo remains uncertain.

It’s still unclear why this is happening. Is it to resell the exotic animals for profit? That is the mostly likely reason, especially since they aren’t immediately being killed. The thief or thieves seem to know which animals they are looking for.

The Louisiana zoo was formerly named the Zoo of Acadiana and my husband took our son there frequently when he was a little guy. We lived in a city nearby at the time. They enjoyed lots of father-son quality time there. I hope the monkeys are found soon and they are alive and well. Lock the thief up and throw away the key.


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