A 24-year-old man has been arrested in Dallas and charged in connection with the suspected theft of a pair of emperor tamarin monkeys that were recovered unharmed this week in an abandoned home a day after they vanished from the Dallas Zoo, police said.
Davion Irvin was arrested late Thursday night and charged with six counts of animal cruelty-non-livestock, Dallas Police said in a news release.
Irvin is being held at the Dallas County Jail. It was not immediately clear if he has a lawyer.
“The preliminary investigation and help from the public identified Irvin as the man Dallas Police were looking to speak with regarding the missing monkeys at the Dallas Zoo,” police said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is assisting Dallas police in the investigation, Public Affairs Specialist Christina Meister said in a statement Friday.
The monkeys’ disappearance followed a series of suspicious incidents at the zoo in recent weeks involving a leopard, langur monkeys and vulture, all of which led to a hike in security, including more cameras, security patrols, overnight staff, fencing and technology. Meantime, a Louisiana zoo reported the weekend theft of 12 squirrel monkeys.
A $25,000 reward was offered in the Dallas missing monkeys case as zoo officials released surveillance footage that “seems to have been critical in generating a tip that led to the recovery of the tamarins” in the home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles away.
Police also released a photo of an unidentified man they said they were searching for and wanted to interview. The video shows a man walking slowly down a nearly empty zoo sidewalk, looking back and forth as he moves. Another person is seen in the background walking in the opposite direction; the photo shows a man wearing a navy hooded sweatshirt and a navy and red beanie cap while eating a bag of Doritos.
The monkeys went missing Monday from a habitat that had been “intentionally compromised,” the zoo said, adding Dallas Police said they had reason to believe they were “intentionally taken from the enclosure.” The zoo was closed Monday due to inclement weather, it earlier had announced, with the closure extended through Wednesday due to an ice storm.
How the animals left the zoo and got into the Lancaster house is still a mystery. Upon their return, the monkeys were put into quarantine, the zoo said.
“Emperor tamarin monkeys, Bella and Finn, were so happy to snuggle into their nest sack here at the Zoo last night!” it said on Facebook. “Our veterinary and animal care teams have said, beyond losing a bit of weight, they show no signs of injury and both started eating and drinking almost immediately once the team completed health exams on Tuesday night.”
Other strange developments with animals have unfolded in recent weeks at the Dallas Zoo.
A clouded leopard named Nova disappeared January 13, and the zoo closed to search for the animal. Police launched a criminal investigation after they found the fence around Nova’s enclosure had been “intentionally cut,” they said. Later that day, Nova was found near her habitat.
Meanwhile, zoo staff observed a similar cut to the enclosure of some langur monkeys, but none of them had escaped, the zoo said. Police did not immediately determine whether the two incidents were related.
The incidents prompted the zoo to ramp up security, including installing more cameras and boosting overnight security personnel and staffing, its president and CEO Gregg Hudson said. Restrictions were also placed on animals’ ability to go outside overnight, he added.
Then, a lappet-faced vulture named Pin was found dead January 21 in his habitat. “Circumstances of the death are unusual, and the death does not appear to be from natural causes,” the zoo said in a statement.
The bird’s death was “suspicious” and it suffered “an unusual wound and injuries,” Hudson said. The zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the vulture’s death.