A 24-year-old man has been arrested in the suspected theft of emperor tamarin monkeys that went missing from the Dallas Zoo, police announced Friday. Davion Irvin was taken into custody Thursday and charged with six counts of animal cruelty to nonlivestock, the Dallas Police Department said in a news release.
“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 in the news release. It is unclear whether Irvin has an attorney. Records show his bail at Dallas County Jail was set at $25,000 as of Friday.
The arrest is the latest in a bizarre series of events at the Dallas Zoo, where police investigated four odd incidents last month. The announcement of the arrest comes three days after police found two emperor tamarin monkeys, Bella and Finn, in a house about 15 miles from the Dallas Zoo. The monkeys, which had been reported missing for almost 36 hours, were returned to the zoo to be checked by veterinarians.
Earlier this week, Dallas police released a photo of a person they were “looking to speak with” about the missing monkeys. Authorities said they received a tip Thursday that Irvin was seen at the Dallas World Aquarium. When officers responded to the tip that Irvin was spotted near the animal exhibits at the Dallas World Aquarium, they saw him get onto a Dallas metro train, according to police.
Officers later found him and brought him in to police headquarters for questioning, authorities said in the news release. While police did not say whether Irvin could be connected to the other incidents, authorities noted that “the investigation into all cases at the zoo are ongoing and further charges are possible.”
The Dallas Zoo has been in the news in recent weeks for several suspicious scenes. The first sign of trouble came last month on the morning of Jan. 13, when it posted online that it was under a “Code Blue.” The zoo closed that day amid what it called a “serious situation.” One of its clouded leopards was not in its habitat, leading to a search for the animal, which was found on the grounds that afternoon.
About a week later, zoo staffers found one of their endangered vultures dead in its enclosure. The bird had “an unusual wound and injuries” that “pointed to this not being a natural death,” officials added. And on Monday, members of the animal-care team called police after discovering that two of the emperor tamarin monkeys at the zoo were missing, and an “intentional cut” was found in their enclosure, officials said.
“We want everyone to know how seriously we take the safety and security of our animals, our staff, and our campus as a whole,” the Dallas Zoo said last month in a statement after the death of the vulture. The zoo added that it would “continue to expand and implement even more safety and security measures, to whatever extent is needed, to keep animals and staff safe.”
On Monday, the zoo was closed to the public due to bad weather. Staffers noticed two emperor tamarins were missing from their enclosure about 7 a.m. The monkeys, which have long white whiskers resembling a handlebar mustache, would “likely stay close to home,” zoo officials said. Staffers searched the grounds throughout the day but could not find the animals. Based on their initial investigation, police say the monkeys were taken after their enclosure was “intentionally compromised,” the zoo said.
A similar cut to an enclosure was found in the first case, when Nova, a 25-pound clouded leopard, was missing Jan. 13, zoo officials said. After a search the entire day involving drones and officers, Nova was found near her original habitat. Police said the fencing of her enclosure had also been “intentionally” cut with a tool. That day, Dallas Zoo staffers spotted a similar cut in the fencing where its langur monkeys are held. None of the monkeys were missing or harmed, police said at the time.
Over the next week, the Dallas Zoo added additional cameras to the more than 100 it already had and increased its security patrols during overnight hours. But officers returned to the zoo on Jan. 21 after one of the endangered vultures in its “Wilds of Africa” habitat was found dead. The 35-year-old lappet-faced vulture, Pin, was one of about 6,500 of his kind left. Officials at the zoo, where Pin lived for 33 years, called him “an extraordinary ambassador for his species.”
“The circumstances of the death are unusual,” the Dallas Zoo said in a Jan. 22 statement. “Given the recent incidents at the zoo, we alerted the Dallas Police Department.” At a Friday afternoon news conference, Dallas Police Department spokeswoman Kristin Lowman said Irvin had also been charged with two counts of burglary, one each in the leopard and langur incidents. He has not been linked to the vulture death, Lowman said.
Before Irvin was arrested, the zoo shared on Facebook how Bella and Finn, the emperor tamarin monkeys, “were so happy to snuggle into their nest sack” upon their return. At the Friday news conference, zoo executive Harrison Edell said the emperor tamarins were in medical quarantine because they were “away from the zoo and potentially in contact with people and other animals.”
Nova, the leopard, “was reintroduced to her sister Luna the night after her adventure,” he said. They are back in their habitat and settling back into their routines. And the langurs? They are “doing fine and spry despite old age,” Edell said.