In the latest in a string of troubling incidents at the Dallas Zoo, two emperor tamarin monkeys have vanished, just weeks after a clouded leopard also disappeared from its habitat and an endangered vulture was found dead under suspicious circumstances. On Tuesday, the Dallas Police released a photo of a man they say is person of interest in the case.
Zoo officials said they noticed the monkeys were missing on Monday morning, noting that it appeared the enclosure was “intentionally compromised.” The Dallas Zoo was closed Monday due to inclement weather; employees and police continue to search for the monkeys but say they would not have gone far from their enclosure if they had escaped.
The zoo said in a tweet on Monday, “Emperor tamarin monkeys would likely stay close to home - the Zoo searched near their habitat and across Zoo grounds and did not locate them.” The account continued, “Based on the Dallas Police Department’s initial assessment, they have reason to believe the tamarins were taken.”
Earlier this month, the zoo reported the escape of a clouded leopard named Nova, and Dallas Police opened a criminal investigation after finding the animal’s enclosure had been “intentionally cut.” Nova was found near her habitat later that day, and authorities found a similar cut was made at an enclosure of langur monkeys, but the zoo confirmed that none of the monkeys had escaped.
The zoo installed additional security cameras after the incident and increased the number of overnight staff and overnight security personnel, and limited some animals from going outside, President and CEO Gregg Hudson said, according to CNN.
Last week, an endangered lappet-faced vulture named Pin was found dead in its enclosure. Hudson said the bird’s death was “suspicious,” adding it did not die from natural causes and was found to have “an unusual wound and injuries,” CNN reported.
A necropsy is being carried out on the bird, and no additional information has been released. The zoo said it was not only devastated by Pin’s death but that the loss is a blow to the “conservation efforts of the species.”
Following Pin’s death, the Dallas Zoo said in a statement, “We want everyone to know how seriously we take the safety and security of our animals, our staff, and our campus as a whole,” the Washington Post reported. The zoo added that it would “continue to expand and implement even more safety and security measures, to whatever extent is needed, to keep animals and staff safe.”
Ron Magill, a zookeeper and communications director at Zoo Miami, told the Washington Post that the incidents are heightening concerns at zoos across the country. Releasing animals from their enclosures puts them in serious danger, he said, because they require professional help and attention from zoo staff.
“Anybody who thinks they might be helping an animal by releasing it from whatever habitat it was at in the Dallas Zoo is sadly mistaken,” Magill said.