Dallas Zoo Communicates Odd Incidents

Thom Weidlich 02.02.23


The new year has brought a series of strange, dismaying and likely criminal incidents to the Dallas Zoo, which has done a good job of communicating what’s happening and what it’s doing in response.

It started Jan. 13 when the zoo announced that a small (25-pound) clouded leopard named Nova (pictured) couldn’t be found. Police were investigating. The Texas zoo said the leopard was “non-dangerous” and that it believed it remained on the grounds. Still, it asked people not to approach the cat if they saw it, but rather to send in a photo. It promised to share updates, which it did. “Our focus right now is on locating the animal,” it said.

The leopard was found uninjured on the grounds that same day. As you can imagine, the story attracted some social media attention.

Langur Monkeys

The Dallas Police Department said in a statement the next day that the investigation found “a cutting tool was intentionally used to cut an opening in the fencing of the clouded leopard’s habitat.” Further investigation led to another disturbing discovery: A similar cut had been made at a habitat for langurs. Fortunately, all the monkeys were accounted for.

Then on Jan. 22, the zoo announced that one of its four lappet-faced vultures, an endangered species, had died. “The circumstances of the death are unusual, and the death does not appear to be from natural causes,” it said. Once again, it called in the police. It also said it had added more cameras and security patrols to its 110-acre campus.

On Monday this week, during which it’s been closed due to weather, the zoo revealed that its oddities nightmare wasn’t over: Two monkeys went missing and police suspected they were stolen. On a tip, the police found the primates the next day in the closet of an abandoned house. “We are thrilled beyond belief to share that our two emperor tamarin monkeys have been found,” the zoo tweeted.

Animal Lovers

While it’s easier to communicate a crisis in which you’re the victim (as the zoo is) rather than the bad guy, these kinds of incidents upset people, especially animal lovers, and the Dallas Zoo has done a good job of keeping the public informed. In addition to using its Twitter account to provide updates, on Jan. 23 it held an outdoor press conference on its grounds. The Dallas police have also spoken to the media.

The zoo is offering $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the incidents. Dallas police are searching for, and want to question, an unidentified man in a photo taken at the zoo. It’s unclear what they think his involvement, if any, in the events is.

Photo Credit: Dallas Zoo via Twitter

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