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Dallas Zoo's missing tamarin monkeys have been found in a closet, and investigators still want to find photographed man, police say

CNN 2/1/2023 Andi Babineau

Two emperor tamarin monkeys missing since Monday from the Dallas Zoo were found alive Tuesday in the closet of an abandoned Dallas-area home, officials said, and police say they still want to talk to a certain man in connection with the case.

The monkeys’ retrieval – after officials said the animals were believed to have been stolen – is part of just the latest in a string of suspicious incidents this month at the zoo, including what it said were “unusual” circumstances surrounding a vulture’s death last week.

As for the monkeys: Investigators found them after receiving a tip they may be at an abandoned home in Lancaster, a city some 15 miles south of the zoo, Dallas police said.

“Dallas police, with Lancaster police, went to the home and the home was empty, and the monkeys were found in a closet,” Dallas police told CNN.

The two emperor tamarin monkeys were thought to have been stolen, after they were discovered missing from their enclosure Monday, the zoo said. Dallas police said their initial investigation found the monkeys’ habitat had been intentionally cut open and “it is believed the animals were intentionally taken from the enclosure.”

“We are thrilled beyond belief to share that our two emperor tamarin monkeys have been found,” the zoo said Tuesday evening. “They will be evaluated by our veterinarians this evening.”

Dallas police tweeted a photo of one of the monkeys inside the closet, perched atop what appeared to be some fencing that also was inside. Police haven’t said how the monkeys came to be at the home, and no arrests have been made.

© Provided by CNN Dallas police asked for the public's help in identifying this person. - Dallas Police Department

Investigators want to speak to man in photo

Earlier Tuesday – before they announced the monkeys were found – Dallas police released surveillance video and a photo of an unidentified man they wanted to speak to about the case.

Investigators still want to speak with that man, Dallas police spokesperson Kristin Lowman told CNN Tuesday night.

Police have not elaborated about why they want to speak to the man, or when the video and image were taken.

In the surveillance video, the man can be seen walking slowly down a nearly empty zoo sidewalk, looking back and forth as he moves. A second person also can be seen in the background, but that person walks in the opposite direction.

In the still image, the man is wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt and a navy and red beanie cap and is eating a bag of Doritos.

The zoo was closed for Monday due to inclement weather. The closure was later extended through Wednesday due to an ice storm impacting the area, the zoo said.

This was 4th time zoo discovered possible tampering this month, it says

This is the fourth time this month that the zoo has discovered its animals or their enclosures may have been tampered with, including the “unusual” circumstances surrounding the death of a vulture last week, according to the zoo.

The string of events began January 13 when a clouded leopard named Nova disappeared, prompting the zoo to close as they searched for the animal. Dallas police opened a criminal investigation after it was discovered that the fence around Nova’s enclosure had been “intentionally cut,” police said.

While the feline was found close to her habitat later that day, zoo personnel also found a similar cut had been made to the enclosure of some langur monkeys. Despite the new escape route, none of the monkeys left their habitat, the zoo said. Police said at the time that it was “unknown if the two incidents are related.”

Following the incidents, the zoo installed additional security cameras, more than doubled its overnight security personnel, increased its overnight staffing, and began limiting some animals’ ability to go outside overnight, President and CEO Gregg Hudson said.

But less than two weeks after the first discoveries, a vulture named Pin was found dead in his habitat. Hudson called the bird’s death “suspicious” and said “an unusual wound and injuries” indicated Pin did not die from natural causes.

The zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the vulture’s death.

Dallas police are investigating all four incidents. A spokesperson said last week that the department is collaborating with US Fish and Wildlife on the investigations.

CNN’s Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera, Theresa Waldrop. Rebekah Riess, Tina Burnside and Zoe Sottile contributed to this report.

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