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Death of Beloved Vulture Latest in Series of Incidents at Dallas Zoo

The death of Pin the lappet-faced vulture under suspicious circumstances is just the latest in a string of incidents at the Dallas Zoo. Officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
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Dallas Zoo CEO and president Gregg Hudson addresses reporters Monday afternoon as Zoo spokeswoman Kari Streiber and Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold look on. Screen capture

An endangered vulture died under suspicious circumstances at the Dallas Zoo this weekend. It caps off an awful couple of weeks for the organization.

In the span of just a few days, a clouded leopard escaped her enclosure after someone apparently cut its fencing. Zoo officials later discovered another cut in the fencing of a monkey habitat, but the monkeys stayed put.

Pin, a lappet-faced vulture, was at least 35 years old, the zoo said Monday. He has lived at the zoo for 33 years, and was one of four. He had 11 offspring that now live at the Albuquerque BioPark, Zoo Atlanta, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Cincinnati Zoo, and the Dallas Zoo. His first grandchild hatched in early 2020 and lives at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

The lappet-faced vulture habitat is in the Wilds of Africa area, and Pin in particular was beloved by staff, the Zoo said. 

“Deaths are always difficult – but this one is particularly challenging. We are disturbed by the idea that someone might have intentionally done this, ” Dallas Zoo president and CEO Gregg Hudson said.

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Dallas Zoo

Officials said Pin had “a wound” but declined to elaborate on what kind of wound, only to say that it was suspicious and did not appear to have occurred naturally. A necropsy will determine more about his death. Dallas police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department are investigating the vulture’s death, as well as whether this incident is connected to the tampering at the langur monkey and clouded leopard habitats.

The zoo said that there was no sign of tampering with the vulture habitat, and Hudson said that whoever harmed the bird “would have had to go through our barriers.”

In a Monday afternoon update, officials said that Pin was discovered dead over the weekend, and was last seen alive on Friday. The Zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the incident, and anyone with information is asked to call 214-670-7694. Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said the city would continue to support the Zoo’s investigation, and also urged the Zoo’s neighboring communities to report suspicious activity to 911.

“Watch, look, and report,” she said. “If you see something, say something.”

In a press release Monday, the zoo said it was increasing onsite security patrols and installing more cameras throughout its campus. Prior to the most recent incidents, the Zoo had more than 100 cameras on the grounds and has increased its camera coverage since, including portable cameras on loan from the Dallas Police Department.

“We have more than doubled our security guards on overnight patrols and have increased our staff presence during overnight hours,” the statement said. “We also have limited, where possible, access to the outdoor habitats for some of our animals overnight.”

Dallas police are investigating this latest issue, as well as the previously compromised enclosures.

The lappet-faced vulture is considered endangered, with only about 6,500 left on earth. There are 27 in U.S. zoos and 41 in international zoos.

“We are devastated at the loss of this long-time Zoo resident and this critical ambassador for a much-misunderstood species,” the Zoo said.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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