Texas man arrested for allegedly stealing monkeys from Dallas Zoo

The zoo has added extra security after the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys, both of which have been recovered.

An emperor tamarin monkey perched on a branch
This photo, provided by the Dallas Zoo, shows an emperor tamarin monkey that lives at the facility [Dallas Zoo via AP]

A man accused of pilfering a pair of primates from a zoo in the United States has been apprehended, police say.

Law enforcement officials in the city of Dallas, Texas, said in a blog post on Friday that a 24-year-old suspect has been arrested for allegedly stealing two emperor tamarin monkeys from the local zoo, which has recently experienced a string of bizarre incidents, including animal disappearances and breached enclosures.

Both monkeys were recovered on Tuesday and returned to the zoo.

“Emperor tamarin monkeys, Bella and Finn, were so happy to snuggle into their nest sack here at the Zoo last night!” the Dallas Zoo said in a Twitter post on Wednesday. “Our vet and animal care teams have said, beyond losing a bit of weight, they show no signs of injury.”

Police said the suspect, named Davion Irvin, has been charged with six counts of animal cruelty — three for each of the monkeys — and is being held in the county jail. His bail has been set at $25,000.

Police also said there is an ongoing investigation into the strange occurrences that have taken place at the zoo recently.

Irvin has also been charged in two of those incidents, involving a clouded leopard named Nova and the zoo’s langur monkeys, police spokesperson Kristin Lowman announced on Friday.

On January 13, workers discovered that someone had used a cutting tool to open the clouded leopard’s enclosure and that the feline had escaped. The leopard was discovered the same day on zoo grounds and returned to her habitat.

Police found similar cuts to an enclosure containing the langur monkeys, though none of the primates had slipped out. Irvin faces two counts of burglary to a building in connection to the damage at both exhibits.

An endangered lappet-faced vulture was also found dead at the zoo under what officials described as “suspicious” circumstances. Gregg Hudson, the zoo’s president and CEO, said the vulture had suffered a “wound”. But Irvin has not been connected with that incident so far, as police continue their probe.

On Monday, the monkeys Bella and Finn were also reported missing, with the zoo saying their habitat appeared to have been “intentionally compromised”.

Law enforcement later posted a picture of the suspect in their disappearance, asking the public for help identifying him. Irvin was detained on Thursday after being spotted at the local Dallas World Aquarium, where he approached an employee to ask questions.

“Dallas Police received a tip Irvin was seen at the Dallas Aquarium near animal exhibits,” police said in a statement. Aquarium spokesperson Waylon Tate said the employee had recognized Irvin from the photo police circulated.

A tip also led authorities to the two monkeys, who were discovered in the closet of a vacant home in the city of Lancaster, about 25km (15 miles) south of the zoo.

The emperor tamarin is a small monkey with long whiskers and is named for its resemblance to the German emperor Wilhelm II, who is also known for his elaborate facial hair.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies