Dallas Zoo monkeys found; police release photo of person of interest

Emperor Tamarin monkey
Emperor Tamarin monkey(CBS DFW for CBS affiliates only)
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 4:25 PM CST
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - UPDATE: The Dallas Police Department is asking for the public’s help identifying a person of interest in the case of two emperor tamarin monkeys they believe were taken on Jan. 30.

Both monkeys were found the next day later in Lancaster, the city confirmed the evening of January 31.

Detectives said they want to speak with the man in regard to the case.

Zoo officials contacted law enforcement officials on Jan. 30 after seeing that the monkeys’ habitat was “intentionally compromised.”

In a news release, zoo officials said the monkeys would likely stay close to home. But following a search of their habitat and zoo grounds, the tamarins were still missing as of the next day.

The incident is the latest in series of recent, unsettling events involving animals at the zoo.

On Jan. 13, a clouded leopard named Nova was intentionally let out of her habitat through a cut-out hole—a hole similar to one found shortly later in a monkey habitat, according to the zoo.

After searching all day, she was found sleeping in a tree that evening. Dallas police opened a criminal investigation into the incident, which is ongoing.

Ten days after Nova was let out then found, someone killed an endangered lappet-faced vulture named Pin.

“This goes from being about malicious and gets into really criminal intent that’s dangerous,” Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson told reporters during a Jan. 23 press conference. “I’ve been in the zoo profession over 30-plus years, and never had a situation like what happened Saturday. It’s unprecedented and very disturbing.”

The animal care team was heartbroken over losing Pin. He lived at the zoo for the last 33 years and was one of only 27 lappet-faced vultures in captivity in the U.S. Pin was also one of four at the nationally acclaimed zoo and sired 11 offspring. In fact, Pin’s first “grandkid” hatched in 2020.

“Deaths are always difficult. But this is especially challenging. There’s a good chance lappet-faced vultures could move to critically endangered or even go extinct in our lifetime,” said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo’s executive vice president for animal care and conservation said that day.

After Pin’s death, officials said they added additional night vision cameras throughout the zoo and increased onsite security during overnight hours.

“We have over 100-plus cameras on zoo grounds. We have also increased our surveillance system, and more than doubled our security presence and increased staff overnight,” said Hudson.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the police department in their investigation into Pin’s death. The zoo is also offering a $10,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest or indictment.

While this isn’t the first time an animal has escaped its habitat at the zoo, it appears to be the first time in the zoo’s history, that these incidents are possibly intentional.

In 2004, a 300-pound, male gorilla named Jabari cleared a 14-foot wall and mauled three people. Police killed him.

In 2010, another gorilla named Tufani escaped a holding area when a worker left a door open. Tufani never got into a public area.

The following year, in 2011, the zoo declared a Code Red when an adult chimpanzee named Koko escaped through an unsecured gate in what authorities called a sort of “bedroom” area. She was shot with a dart gun in a hallway and sedated.

Anyone with information on the man pictured above, or in the case is asked to call Detective Edwin Saracay at 214-671-4509 or at Edwin.saracay@dallaspolice.gov.

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