What's been going on at the Dallas Zoo? Here’s what we know so far
A timeline breaks down the series of animal-related incidents at the Dallas Zoo — and some unanswered questions.
Earlier this year, the Dallas Zoo was subject to some bizarre and worrying incidents involving its animals. It became a hot topic for locals and animal lovers on social media — and even got a joke on Saturday Night Live.
The man police say is responsible is now in custody facing federal charges, but there remain some unanswered questions. Here's a timeline of what's happened at the Dallas Zoo so far.
Clouded leopard escapes
On the morning of Jan. 13, Dallas Zoo staff said in a tweet one of its clouded leopards named Nova was missing from its enclosure. The zoo closed down, but Nova was found safe later that day.
However, Dallas police said they noticed what appeared to be an intentional cut in the animal’s enclosure — and some apparent tampering in the habitat of the zoo’s langur monkeys, though they did not escape their pen. That’s when police began a criminal investigation.
Endangered vulture found dead
On the morning of January 21, workers found one of the zoo’s endangered male lappet-faced vultures dead in its enclosure with what police later called an “unnatural wound.”
Harrison Edell, vice president of animal care and conservation for the zoo, said the Pin the vulture was like family to the staff.
"He lived here at Dallas Zoo for 33 years, and a lot of our teams have worked closely with him for all of that time," Edell said.
Police began investigating the vulture's death in connection with the escape of the clouded leopard and damaged langur monkey habitat more than a week prior.
The zoo also offered a $10,000 reward to the public for information on the incidents.
On January 30, two emperor tamarin monkeys named Bella and Finn went missing from their enclosures.
Yet again, Dallas police said they found intentional cuts in the monkeys' habitat — big enough for a human to get through — and believed they were taken.
The day after the monkeys went missing, police said a tip led them to an abandoned home in Lancaster where they rescued the two emperor tamarin monkeys from a bedroom closet. The house also contained several other animals, such as cats and pigeons. In affidavits, police describe the conditions in the house as "poor" with mold and mildew, feces and the dead bodies of other animals present.
The monkeys were returned safely to the Dallas Zoo that day. The zoo then raised the reward for information that would lead to an arrest to $25,000.
Police began investigating the monkeys' disappearance in connection with the previous two cases.
On Feb. 2, Dallas police received another tip that a man matching the description law enforcement released on Twitter was seen hanging around animal exhibits at the Dallas World Aquarium.
After police arrived at the scene, they said they spotted 24-year-old Davion Irvin boarding a DART train on Pacific Avenue, brought him in for questioning and arrested him.
According to police records, Irvin had asked zoo workers "obscure" questions about how the tamarin monkeys were cared for and housed.
Those records allege he also told police he would do what he did again if released.
Irvin is now charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two felony counts of burglary for the disappearance of the clouded leopard and tamarin monkeys.
But police did not link Irvin to the vulture’s death — that investigation is still ongoing.
The future of the zoo
According to affidavits, Irvin bought tickets to the zoo and entered like any other visitor. Still, zoo officials assured the public changes would be made to keep animals and patrons safe.
Sean Greene, the Dallas Zoo's chief operating officer, unveiled the newest security efforts for Dallas City Council members on Feb. 21.
These included motion-detecting cameras with alarms, solar-powered police surveillance camera units and additional security guards on zoo grounds, measures Greene said were implemented after each incident.
"Obviously, this is attention that we don't look to garner for the zoo or Dallas," Greene said. "There are some positives out of this. I think people have learned a little bit about some animals that they never knew about."
Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at email@example.com. You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.
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