The Dallas Zoo is currently four weeks into its annual Penguin Days celebration, but it’s seemed more like cat burglar season as of late – literally.
First, a Himalayan-sourced feline went missing; then a rare bird died; after that, two small monkeys are believed to have been stolen.
Now, local law enforcement is asking for the public’s help in locating and identifying a man termed “not a person of interest currently.”
In an email response, @DallasPD says, “The individual is not a person of interest currently – we are looking to speak with them in regard to the case.”
The two tamarin monkeys were reported missing, Monday. Police believe they were intentionally taken from an enclosure. @FOX4 pic.twitter.com/pJDSuFqWtd
— David Sentendrey (@DavidSFOX4) January 31, 2023
The trouble began earlier this month when one of two endangered clouded leopards, 4-year-old Nova, went missing overnight, the zoo said.
The disappearance caused the Dallas Zoo to close early that day — Nova was recovered late in the afternoon on Friday, Jan. 13, and secured by around 5:15 p.m.
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But zoo officials did not believe the big cat’s brief escape from her enclosure, which she shares with her sister, was an accident.
“It was clear that this opening was not a habitat failure, it was not an exhibit failure and it wasn’t keeper error,” Dallas Zoo President Gregg Hudson told the Dallas Morning News after Nova was found. Hudson also described the tear in her cage as “suspicious.”
Law enforcement echoed that opinion.
“It is our belief that this was an intentional act,” Dallas Police Department spokesperson Sergeant Warren Mitchell told the paper.
The next day it was revealed that there was an additional tear in the enclosure for the zoo’s langur monkeys. That hole, police said, appeared to have been made with the same “cutting tool” as the one that momentarily freed Nova. None of the primates escaped.
Just over a week later, on Jan, 21, staff at the zoo asked police to investigate the “unusual” death of an endangered, 35-year-old lappet-faced vulture named Pin. His death, the zoo said in a statement, “does not appear to be from natural causes.”
Less well-known or cuddly than the apparent previous targets, zoo officials mourned and explained the loss in an Instagram post:
Pin was a remarkable boy and an extraordinary ambassador for his species at the Dallas Zoo for 33 years. During this time, he sired 11 offspring and even had his first “grandkid” in early 2020.
Losing him is devastating not only to our Zoo family but also to the conservation efforts of this species. With only about 6,500 individuals of lappet-faced vultures left on Earth, they are now listed as endangered by the IUCN with a chance of moving to critically endangered. These beautiful birds are at serious risk of disappearing forever.
Police reportedly said Pin’s death was being investigated as “suspicious” and that a necropsy would be performed to determine how he died.
Earlier this week, the pattern reasserted itself as two smallish monkeys went missing. And there was little room for doubt this time.
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“On Monday morning (January 30), Dallas Zoo alerted the Dallas Police Department after the animal care team discovered two of our emperor tamarin monkeys were missing,” the zoo said in a statement on Twitter. “It was clear the habitat had been intentionally compromised. Emperor tamarin monkeys would likely stay close to home – the Zoo searched near their habitat and across Zoo grounds, and did not locate them.”
“Based on the Dallas Police Department’s initial assessment, they have reason to believe the tamarins were taken,” the statement continued. “This is an active Dallas Police Department investigation. This is all the information we are able to share at this time.”
On Tuesday, police released surveillance footage and a still image captured from the video of a man eating a bag of Doritos.
“Dallas Police are looking for the public’s help in identifying the pictured individual,” a statement posted on the department’s blog reads. “Detectives are looking to speak with the man in regard to the two tamarin monkeys missing from the Dallas Zoo.”
Police later stressed in a message to local Fox affiliate KDFW that the man was not a suspect – at least not yet.
“The individual is not a person of interest currently – we are looking to speak with them in regard to the case,” police told reporter David Sentendrey.
[image: man via Dallas Police Department; monkey via Dallas Zoo]
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