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Dallas Zoo offering $25,000 reward for information about recent incidents

Chron logo Chron 2/1/2023 Ariana Garcia
© Daniel Hernanz Ramos/Getty Images

UPDATE: 4 p.m. CT 

The Dallas Zoo is offering a $25,000 reward for any information regarding a string of strange incidents, including animals that have gone missing and a suspicious death, in recent weeks. Zoo staff provided an update on two emperor tamarin monkeys, which were returned to the zoo after police located them inside an abandoned house in Lancaster on Tuesday. "Emperor tamarin monkeys, Bella and Finn, were so happy to snuggle into their nest sack here at the zoo last night!" staff wrote on social media. "Our vet and animal care teams have said, beyond losing a bit of weight, they show no signs of injury." 

Both monkeys began eating almost immediately after the team completed health exams on Tuesday, staff said. The monkeys will return to their habitat after they clear a quarantine period. "We cannot thank the Dallas PD enough for their quick response and assistance in locating the tamarins," staff wrote. "We are pleased that video from our surveillance cameras—which we shared with DPD—seems to have been critical in generating a tip that led to the recovery of the tamarins."

Following the safe return of the monkeys, the zoo also increased its $10,000 reward for information that "leads to the arrest and indictment of the person(s) responsible for these incidents," to $25,000. 

On Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News reported that members of a church located next to the home in Lancaster where the taken monkeys were found tipped off police. Other animals, including birds, cats and possibly chickens, were also reportedly found in the home located just 20 minutes away from the Dallas Zoo. 

--- End of Update ---

Dallas police officers found two emperor tamarin monkeys that were reported missing from the Dallas Zoo on Monday inside the closet of an abandoned home in Lancaster, a city located about 16 miles away from Dallas, Tuesday evening. The monkeys, which police say were taken from their enclosure, have since been returned to the zoo. 

The Dallas Police Department shared a photo of one of the monkeys perched on a fence. The Lancaster Police Department reportedly assisted in locating the monkeys. The announcement that the monkeys were located came hours after the police shared images of a person investigators wanted to interview regarding the missing chimps. 

"We are thrilled beyond belief to share that our two emperor tamarin monkeys have been found," Dallas Zoo officials wrote in a social media announcement Tuesday night. "DPD located the animals early this evening, and called our team to come secure and transport the tamarins back to the zoo. They will be evaluated by our veterinarians this evening."

The disappearance of the monkeys is just the latest in a string of mysterious incidents with animals that have happened at the Dallas Zoo in recent weeks, most of which remain unsolved. On Jan. 13, the zoo issued a "code blue" after one of its clouded leopards, Nova, escaped her enclosure. Nova was later found near habitat unharmed, but police determined the fence surrounding her enclosure was intentionally cut open. 

The following day, a similar fence cut was found at a second enclosure, which contains the zoo's langur monkeys. However, zoo staff said the monkeys never left their habitat and were unharmed. Just a little more than a week after Nova's escape, a 35-year-old lappet-faced vulture named Pin, who has lived at the Dallas Zoo for 33 years, had an "unusual death," zoo staff said. A necropsy conducted by the zoo's veterinary team revealed that the rare bird was found with a wound. 

The incidents are each being investigated as intentional acts. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which accredits the Dallas Zoo, said the zoo's accreditation is not in jeopardy.

"While recent incidents targeting animals at the Dallas zoo are troubling, AZA continues to maintain utmost confidence in the professional staff at Dallas Zoo," said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of AZA, in a statement Tuesday. "Dallas Zoo and its animals are victims of acts, presumably intended to take animals for personal reasons, or worse, to be trafficked."

Zoo officials said they will provide an update on the tamarins Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, details about the recovery will be shared by the Dallas Police Department, they said. 


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