An endangered vulture was discovered dead at the Dallas Zoo over the weekend with a “unusual wound,” according to facility officials, the third suspicious incident in less than two weeks.
A clouded leopard fled her enclosure last month after it was intentionally cut, according to authorities. Similar incisions were discovered at the langur monkey habitat, but no animals escaped.
It’s unclear whether Pin, a 35-year-old lappet-faced vulture, died as a result of the earlier instances. In a statement issued Monday, the zoo said it had called Dallas police to investigate and declined to disclose further.
NBC’s Dallas Zoo Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
The zoo said it had “significantly” improved security measures in the last 10 days, including limiting access to outside enclosures and adding cameras and nocturnal guards. According to the statement, it also intends to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment.
“We want everyone to understand how seriously we take the safety and security of our animals, our personnel, and our entire site,” the zoo added.
On January 13, Nova Nova, a 3-year-old clouded leopard, escaped from her enclosure. Her escape, which the zoo declared a “severe incident” shortly after 8 a.m., caused a “code blue,” signifying that a non-dangerous animal had escaped and prompting zoo managers to close the facility.
Clouded leopards are not dangerous to humans, according to zoo specialists. Despite the fact that authorities were unaware of the cat’s size — which ended out to be 25 pounds – a police department SWAT squad was summoned to assist in her capture.
“To put some minds at ease, if she has found her way off-grounds, this animal isn’t a higher risk for pets than animals native to North Texas that roam our neighboring neighborhoods,” the zoo posted on Facebook.
By 4:40 p.m., a “rogue” squirrel had alerted zoo personnel to her “hunkered down hiding position” – roughly 100 yards from her habitat, according to the zoo. She was secured and returned to her enclosure, which she shares with her sister, Luna, a half-hour later.
Langurs are monkeys.
The day after Nova escaped, zoo workers discovered an incision in her wire mesh habitat.
Dallas police launched a criminal investigation after zoo employees showed detectives a similar purposeful cut on the enclosure housing langur monkeys, according to the police department.
According to the police department, none of the animals escaped, and none were injured or appeared to be in danger. According to police, a criminal mischief report was filed, and investigators began working to identify whether the two occurrences were connected.
The vulture, one of 6,500 on the planet, was discovered dead Saturday morning in the zoo’s “Wilds of Africa” exhibit, according to a zoo statement. A veterinarian team investigating its death discovered “an unusual wound and injuries, which pointed to this not being a normal death,” according to the zoo.
The zoo’s animal care crew was “heartbroken” by the death of the vulture, which spent the most of its life at the facility and sired 11 offspring.
“Given the previous incidents at the Zoo, we notified the Dallas Police Department,” according to the post. “We cannot give many facts until Dallas Police Department has had more time to investigate this incident.”
The police department said in a statement Monday that patrol officers and animal cruelty detectives responded and began conducting interviews and examining security video.
It was not stated whether the occurrences were connected.
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold issued a statement reassuring citizens that “all precautions” were being taken to preserve the zoo’s animals. She urged guests to report any suspicious behavior to authorities.