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Texas Man Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Rare Monkeys from Dallas Zoo Had Been Asking Questions About Housing and Moving Animals: Police

Davion Dwight Irvin (Dallas County Jail)

Davion Dwight Irvin (Dallas County Jail)

A 24-year-old man in Texas has been arrested in connection with three bizarre incidents at the Dallas Zoo, including the theft of two rare exotic monkeys.

Davion Dwight Irvin was arrested on Thursday and charged with six counts of animal cruelty and two counts of burglary, authorities said.

The first zoo incident occurred on Jan. 13 when a clouded leopard escaped its enclosure and was missing for several hours. After the animal was found and returned to its habitat, authorities said that the fence of the enclosure had been intentionally cut.

Then on Monday, the mesh around the tamarin monkey habitat had been found cut and two of the small animals were discovered missing. The monkeys, named Bella and Finn, were found safe the following day inside a closet in an abandoned home in Lancaster, about 15 miles from the zoo.

On Tuesday, authorities released a photo showing Irvin at the zoo holding a bag of Doritos and identifying him as a person of interest in the case of the missing monkeys.

Dallas police found Irvin on Thursday after they got a tip that someone spotted him near the animal exhibits at the Dallas World Aquarium, near the Dallas Zoo, according to a news release.

Paula Carlson, an aquarium employee, told Dallas Fox affiliate KDFW that she recognized Irvin’s photos from law enforcement posts and struck up a conversation with him.

“He was asking me questions about the animals, and I was answering them, you know, showing him the animals, the shark, the octopus,” she told the station. “Just trying to maintain a conversation while I was maintaining a text message with our security people here.”

When Irvin left the aquarium, staff called 911 and the police made an arrest.

Investigators said that several days before the monkeys went missing, Irvin had been asking about the practices of housing and moving animals, including tamarin monkeys, according to an affidavit obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson vowed at a news conference Friday this would never happen again.

“It’s been an unbelievable three weeks for all of us here at the zoo,” he said. “It’s unprecedented what’s happened here. Our job is not finished. We are focused on preventing this from ever happening again.”

(image via Dallas PD)

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.