The bizarre saga of missing animals and damaged enclosures at the Dallas Zoo was the work of a single man who’s now in custody, local cops said Friday.
Davion Irvin, 24, was arrested Thursday and initially charged with being the alleged monkey-napper who swiped a pair of rare emperor tamarin monkeys on Monday.
By Friday afternoon, cops had also fingered him in other odd crimes at the zoo, accusing him of cutting enclosures housing langur monkeys and a clouded leopard. The leopard briefly escaped.
Irvin has been charged with two counts of burglary to a building—for cutting the enclosure fences—and six counts of animal cruelty that doesn’t involve livestock. Cops say the list of charges may still grow, as they probe if Irvin is also behind the suspicious death of an endangered vulture at the zoo this month.
Irvin, whose image was circulated by police earlier in the week, was nabbed after a tipster spotted him near animal exhibits at the Dallas Aquarium on Thursday, police said in a statement.
We're so grateful for the support we've received as we comprehend the unexpected loss of our 35-year-old lappet-faced vulture, Pin. Losing him is devastating not only to our Zoo family but also to the conservation efforts of this species. Pin will be missed dearly by everyone. pic.twitter.com/TJEQnT0MG1
— Dallas Zoo (@DallasZoo) January 24, 2023
Kristin Lowman, a spokesperson for Dallas Police, said during a Friday news conference that police suspect Irvin was plotting another animal-related crime when he was spotted at the aquarium.
Details outlined in an arrest affidavit, obtained by the Dallas Morning News, suggests Irvin may have swiped smaller items—like “feeder fish, water chemicals, fish flake food and training supplies”—at the beginning of January, but zoo officials deemed the loss too insignificant to report.
When the clouded leopard went missing, a zoo employee told police that Irvin had asked “obscure” questions about animals during a recent visit, the affidavit said.
Irvin allegedly queried about the “practices in housing and moving of animals” and how, specifically, to care for the same tamarin monkeys he’d be accused of stealing two weeks later.
Dallas Zoo president Greg Hudson said Friday that Irvin had no connection with the zoo through work or volunteering, suggesting he gained access to the facility as a regular visitor.
“It’s been an unbelievable three weeks for all of us here at the zoo,” he said Friday. “We’re determined to make sure we do everything we can to not let this happen again.”
The two emperor tamarin monkeys were found unharmed at an abandoned home owned by a church in Lancaster, Texas, on Tuesday just over a day after zoo officials found the animals gone and their enclosure “intentionally compromised.”
The monkeys, Bella and Finn, were returned to the zoo by Tuesday night and placed in quarantine. They lost some weight during the ordeal but showed “no signs of injury,” the zoo said.
“We will continue to monitor them closely, but for now, we’re so glad they are safe and back with us,” the statement said.
Bella and Finn were found in at home owned by the Family Center Church of God in Christ, which was closed to the public for renovations, WFAA reported.
The pastor’s daughter, Tonya Thomas, told the station that Irvin was recognized by churchgoers when Dallas police released the security photo of him this week. Those members said they recalled seeing Irvin at services in the past.
Dallas Police are looking for the public’s help in identifying the pictured individual. Detectives are looking to speak with the man in regard to the two tamarin monkeys missing from the Dallas Zoo.
Anyone with information- call 214-671-4509. pic.twitter.com/VVvvHFAdgJ
— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) January 31, 2023
Thomas said the building was broken into recently, with cops arriving to find chickens, birds, cats, and other small animals there when they responded.
Those weird circumstances led the church’s pastor to call in a tip to cops that their infamous monkey bandit could be using his building to hide the animals, Thomas said.
Dallas police said it identified Irvin using a tip about the abandoned house, as well as facial recognition programs and additional “workups” by the department's intelligence center.
Irvin was booked into Dallas County Jail just before midnight on Thursday, where he’s being held in lieu of $25,000 bail, records show.