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The Dallas Zoo’s Missing Emperor Tamarin Monkeys Have Been Found Safe in Lancaster

The Zoo says it's "thrilled beyond belief" that the two missing emperor tamarins were found, and provided more details Wednesday.
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Dallas Zoo

Last Updated, 2/1, 6:30 p.m. This story was originally published on 1/31.

About a day after the Dallas Zoo reported two emperor tamarin monkeys missing from their enclosure, officials announced that the animals have been located and are back home safe. A Dallas police news bulletin said that the primates were found inside a closet in an abandoned home in Lancaster. The discovery came after a tip, police said.

“We are thrilled beyond belief to share that our two emperor tamarin monkeys have been found,” Dallas Zoo spokesperson Kari Streiber said. Dallas police found the monkeys Tuesday evening and called zoo staff to secure and transport them. They were later evaluated by the facility’s veterinarians.

Dallas police found the Zoo's missing emperor tamarins in the closet of an abandoned Lancaster home. Dallas Police Department

The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that a local church provided the tip to the police. The tamarins were found in the closet of the community house belonging to Family Center Church of God in Christ, located about 20 minutes from the Zoo.

The pastor’s daughter, Tonya Thomas, said that police also discovered birds, cats, and possibly chickens inside the house.

Wednesday afternoon, the Zoo said that it be emperor tamarin monkeys, named Bella and Finn, showed no signs of injury other than “losing a bit of weight,” and had started eating and drinking almost immediately after being examined Tuesday night.

“We will continue to monitor them closely, but for now, we’re so glad they are safe and back with us.,” the Zoo said in a statement.

Since they were off zoo grounds, Bella and Finn will remain quarantined away from their habitat for “a while,” the statement added.

Emperor tamarins Bella and Finn will spend time in quarantine before returning to their habitat. Dallas Zoo

After a search of the Zoo Monday, staff discovered that the tamarins were missing. Dallas police declared Monday afternoon that evidence pointed to them being abducted. The enclosure to their habitat had been breached. This marks the third time in two weeks that enclosures in the Zoo North section have been tampered with, including a cut to the fencing at the clouded leopard habitat that allowed one of the cats to escape and go missing for almost an entire day.

Tuesday morning, the police asked for the public’s assistance in identifying a man they thought might have information about the disappearance of the tamarins. It is unclear if they made contact with that man or, if they did, whether he had any relevant information. The Lancaster church told the News that they recognized the man pictured as someone who had attended their church in the past.

Dallas police spokesperson Kristin Lowman said part of the department’s investigation into the three incidents, which all happened in Zoo North, will determine whether they are related. The department is also investigating the suspicious death of a lappet-faced vulture on January 23 on the other side of the zoo. The vulture had a “wound,” but officials haven’t commented further.

Wednesday evening, the Zoo provided more detail about the security measures it was taking after the recent series of incidents, saying that the staff was “devastated by the unprecedented situation.”

“This has made us take a hard look at the onsite security measures we have in place,” the statement said. “Although our security program had worked in the past, it has become obvious that we need to make significant changes.”

The Zoo said it is consulting with security experts to create a new strategy for securing the 106-acre campus, acknowledging that its park setting makes the effort challenging because of the extensive tree canopy, large habitats, and areas behind the scenes that need monitoring, in addition to the steady traffic of visitors and contractors.

Additional cameras have been added, and the Zoo is implementing additional security technology and fencing, too, the statement said. It has also more than doubled the number of security patrols and increased overnight staffing. The costs of implementing the new security will be absorbed by the Zoo.

“Our security personnel, staff, and volunteers all already undergo background checks,” the statement continued. “The Zoo is evaluating our internal policies and identifying additional partners with whom we will work to further strengthen security measures to protect the Zoo, our animals, our staff, our guests, and our community.”

The Zoo originally offered a $10,000 reward for information connection to the death of the lappet-faced vulture, but said Wednesday it was increasing the reward to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest or indictment in connection to all of the recent incidents.


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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