Police arrest man in connection with string of Dallas Zoo incidents

Dallas police say they received a tip the man was seen at the Dallas Aquarium. He’s accused of releasing a leopard from captivity and taking a pair of monkeys, but has not been charged in connection with a dead vulture found last month.

By Toluwani Osibamowo, KERA NewsFebruary 3, 2023 9:49 am,

From KERA News:

Police say they arrested a man in connection with a series of animal-related crimes at the Dallas Zoo, including the disappearance of two emperor tamarin monkeys and the release of a clouded leopard from its enclosure last month.

Davion Irvin, 24, was arrested and charged with six counts of animal cruelty to a non-livestock animal and two counts of burglary, according to police and zoo officials.

The arrest was made after a tip came in Thursday that 24-year-old Davion Irvin was seen inside the Dallas World Aquarium near some animal exhibits, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Officers responded and police say they saw Irvin board a DART rail. He was later spotted on Pacific Avenue downtown and taken to Dallas police headquarters for questioning, DPD said.

The monkeys were found Tuesday night after police received a tip that they were in an abandoned home in Lancaster. Hours earlier, police tweeted a photo of a man detectives said they were “looking to speak to” in connection with the monkeys’ disappearance. DPD did not confirm whether the man in that photo was Irvin.

Zoo officials said the monkeys, named Bella and Finn, were returned to the zoo with no injuries despite losing a bit of weight.

Mysterious Dallas Zoo incidents

The alleged monkey theft was just the latest in a series of mysterious animal-related incidents that zoo officials and police believed to be suspicious and possibly related.

The first took place on Jan. 13, when the zoo closed after a clouded leopard named Nova went missing. Though Nova was found safe hours later, police found what they said was an intentional cut in the fencing of the animal’s enclosure. They also determined someone had tampered with the enclosure of the zoo’s langur monkeys, though none escaped.

The following week, zoo employees found Pin, an endangered male lappet faced vulture, dead with an unnatural wound in its body.

Toluwani Osibamowo / KERA News (Inset: Courtesy Photo)

Pin, a male lappet-faced vulture, was found dead at the Dallas Zoo. Police are investigating the bird's death.

At the time of its death, Harrison Edell, vice president of animal care and conservation for the Dallas Zoo, said Pin was loved by all who cared for him.

“This is an endangered species, which makes him all the more important to the long-term sustainability of the vulture population,” Edell said. “And we’re also really disturbed by the idea that someone might have intentionally done this.”

Zoo officials say they have since added more cameras and overnight security.

Police began investigating Pin’s death as suspicious and connected to Nova’s escape. The zoo offered initially offered a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to an arrest. Once the monkeys went missing, that reward was increased to $25,000.

But while Irvin was charged in connection with the leopard and monkey cases, he is not facing charges for the vulture’s death at this time. The investigation is ongoing, police said.

The string of bizarre incidents comes as the Dallas Zoo’s accreditation is set to expire in March. Reached for comment, Dan Ashe, the president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — a nonprofit that accredits the Dallas Zoo — said the zoo’s accreditation is likely not in jeopardy.

Nonetheless, in a statement, Ashe wrote this kind of situation is unlike anything he’s ever seen, and suspects those responsible may be seeking animals as pets or to be used for trafficking.

He encouraged people to continue going to the zoo, as its visitors and guests are its lifeblood.

“Go to Dallas Zoo, support the zoo, learn about these animals and what’s happening to them in nature,” Ashe said.

The zoo released a statement Wednesday, writing its team was “devastated” by the threats to zoo safety.

“Words cannot express the frustration our team is feeling,” the statement read. “Even with all the additional security measures we have put in place during the past two weeks, our animals and staff continue to be the target of these criminal acts.”

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KERAnews.org. Thanks for donating today.