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What's going on at the Dallas Zoo? Man arrested after tamarin monkeys disappear in latest suspicious incident

Police announced a 24-year-old man was arrested and charged with animal cruelty in connection with the missing monkeys.

This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarin monkey that lives at the zoo. (Dallas Zoo via AP)
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarin monkey that lives at the zoo. (Dallas Zoo via AP)

Police in Dallas on Friday announced that an arrest was made after two exotic monkeys were reported missing from the city's zoo earlier this week.

Davion Irvin, 24, was charged with six counts of animal cruelty in the disappearance of the monkeys. Police said they received a tip that Irvin was spotted on Thursday "at the Dallas Aquarium near animal exhibits."

On Monday, the two emperor tamarin monkeys were reported missing from the Dallas Zoo. On Tuesday, after receiving a tip about the animals, police searched an empty home in Lancaster, a suburb located just south of Dallas, and discovered the monkeys in a closet. A team was then sent to transport the monkeys back to the zoo, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, where they were examined by veterinarians.

“It was clear the habitat had been intentionally compromised,” the zoo said in a statement posted to its Twitter feed earlier on Tuesday after employees discovered that the monkeys were no longer in their enclosures.

Escaped emperor tamarins, small monkeys known for their long, white, mustache-like whiskers, “would likely stay close to home,” zoo officials explained, but employees searching near their habitat and across the 100-acre grounds could not initially locate them.

“Based on the Dallas Police Department’s initial assessment, they have reason to believe the tamarins were taken,” the zoo said, adding that it was “an active” police investigation.

On Tuesday, Dallas police released a photo and surveillance video and asked for the public’s help in identifying a person wanted for questioning in connection with the missing monkeys.

The missing monkey saga has been the latest in a string of suspicious incidents that have occurred at the Dallas Zoo in recent weeks.

Strange occurrences at the zoo

Nova, a clouded leopard who went missing earlier this month. (Dallas Zoo/Twitter)
Nova, a clouded leopard who went missing earlier this month. (Dallas Zoo/Twitter)

On Jan. 13, the zoo was shut down for several hours after a 4-year-old clouded leopard named Nova went missing. According to the Associated Press, Dallas police used drones and initially “dispatched SWAT officers to the zoo, not understanding the size of a clouded leopard” before the 25-pound animal was found safe on zoo grounds.

Harrison Edell, executive vice president of animal care and conservation at the Dallas Zoo, said there was a tear in the mesh of Nova's enclosure, and that authorities had opened a criminal investigation.

“It is our belief that this was an intentional act,” Dallas Police Sgt. Warren Mitchell said at the time.

Dallas police were back at the zoo the next day after “an intentional cut was made on the enclosures that house langur monkeys,” USA Today reported. None of the monkeys were missing or harmed. Police said they did not know if the two incidents were related.

Suspicious vulture death

On Jan. 21, an endangered vulture named Pin was found dead in its habitat.

Zoo officials said the death of the 35-year-old adult lappet-faced vulture was “unusual” and not "from natural causes."

Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson revealed at a news conference that the vulture appeared to have suffered an intentional wound that was ultimately fatal.

"This goes from being about malicious and gets into really criminal intent that's dangerous," Hudson told reporters. "I've been in the zoo profession over 30-plus years, and never had a situation like [this]. It's unprecedented and very disturbing."

The Dallas Police Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a multi-agency probe into the incident, CBS News reported, adding that the zoo is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to an arrest or indictment.

Zoo escapes not unprecedented

A person pulls a child in a wagon toward the entrance to the Dallas Zoo.
The entrance to the Dallas Zoo. (Steve Helber, File/AP)

While relatively rare, animals have escaped enclosures from the Dallas Zoo before.

In 2004, the AP reported that a “340-pound (154-kilogram) gorilla named Jabari jumped over a wall and went on a 40-minute rampage that injured three people before police shot and killed the animal.”