Man accused of swiping tamarin monkeys suspected in other incidents at Dallas Zoo

Man accused of swiping tamarin monkeys suspected in other incidents at Dallas Zoo

The man accused of stealing two emperor tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo is also linked with the tampering of the zoo’s clouded leopard and langur monkey exhibits, authorities said Friday.

Davion Irvin, 24, had plans to swipe more animals before he was arrested Thursday and booked on suspicion of burglary and animal cruelty crimes, police said.

Pictures of a man had been circulated throughout North Texas, and an employee at The Dallas World Aquarium recognized him Thursday at the facility, aquarium spokesperson Waylon Tate said in a statement.

The suspect stopped an employee "to ask questions regarding one of our animals" and that worker "immediately recognized Mr. Irvin from prior reporting on the incident involving the suspected theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys," Tate said.

Those questions included "means and ways to catch animals,” according to a police affidavit supporting Irvin’s arrest warrant.

After authorities were called, approaching officers spotted Irvin boarding a Dallas Area Rapid Transit train before he was taken into custody, Dallas police spokesperson Kristin Lowman said. Authorities had also used facial recognition programs to identify him, the affidavit stated.

Officials said a motive remains under investigation, but the suspect was never an employee of the zoo.

"It’s been an unbelievable three weeks for all of us at the zoo, and it’s unprecedented what’s happened here," Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson told reporters Friday afternoon. "We’re truly thankful to a lot of folks who have helped us and assisted us."

The emperor tamarin monkeys were reported stolen from their habitats at the Dallas Zoo on Monday.

Police said they know how Irvin took and transported the animals but declined to reveal the details.

Police credited tips from the public with leading them to the monkeys, Bella and Finn, who were found Tuesday contained in a bathroom inside an empty home in nearby Lancaster.

The animals were not harmed, officials said. Bella and Finn lost weight and were being kept in quarantine as a precaution, the zoo said.

They were found on the property of a church on Gerry Way Street in Lancaster, across the street from "Suspect Irvin's family house," according to the police affidavit.

Inside, there were multiple cats and pigeons, animal feces and “deceased animals," the affidavit stated.

Authorities also found items that had been stolen from the facility last month, including fish flake food for otters and feeder fish.

The monkeys' disappearance was the latest in a string of suspicious incidents at the zoo.

On Jan. 21, a 35-year-old endangered vulture, Pin, was found dead with what authorities have described as an “unusual wound.” The animal’s cause of death has not been determined.

On Jan. 13, Nova, a 3-year-old clouded leopard, escaped her wire mesh enclosure after it was cut, authorities have said. The cat, who the zoo said posed no danger to the public, was found later that day.

A similar cut was found in the zoo’s langur monkey habitat, police said. No animals escaped or were taken or harmed.

Irvin is accused of two counts of burglary, five counts of cruelty to nonlivestock animals and one count of cruelty to livestock animals, jail records showed.

The suspect was booked into custody late Thursday being held in lieu of $25,000 bail, jail records showed.

“The investigation into the death of the vulture is still ongoing He has not been linked to that case at this time,” Lowman said.

“What’s important to realize is the monkeys are back. We’re looking into the case with the vulture now, and we have charges filed in three of the four cases now.”

Irvin had been spotted at the zoo in recent days “asking questions about animals” which included queries about “the status and location of the recently escaped and relocated/captured Clouded Leopard,” according to the police affidavit.

Police feared that if he was not caught, there would have been “further offenses of theft,” the affidavit said.

“We do believe that he was looking to commit another crime,” Lowman said. "That's why it is very important that we took him into custody."

The zoo has tightened security measures, adding more overnight guards and cameras, and it offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and an indictment in the incidents, police said.

Authorities thanked the public for phoning crucial information that ended in the suspect’s arrest.

“We say to people all the time, that one bit of information that you have can help us to make a break in the case,” Lowman said.

Irvin made his initial appearance before a magistrate Friday afternoon, said Dallas County Chief Public Defender Lynn Richardson, who declined any further comment on behalf of her client.

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