An unprecedented string of events at the Dallas Zoo, including a missing animal, ruptured enclosures and an unusual death, have captured nationwide attention over the past few weeks.
Due to the ongoing investigation, officials have been limited in what they can post publicly, and this, apart from social media speculation, has raised more questions than answers.
Here’s what we know so far (and what we don’t know):
What happened to the clouded leopard?
Nova, a 4-year-old clouded leopard, had a social media day of glory on January 13 when the zoo announced that she had escaped from her enclosure.
After hours of searching involving infrared drones, Code Blue and a Dallas Police SWAT team, she was found at the scene.
After the zoo’s veterinary team performed a physical examination and determined that she was unharmed, they reunited her with Sister Luna the next day in the renovated enclosure.
The zoo discovered that Nova had climbed out through a cut in the mesh surrounding her habitat, and police opened a criminal investigation after determining the cut was “intentional”.
Did something happen to the monkey too?
Nothing happened to any of the monkeys in the zoo; however, the day after Nova’s escape, officials said a similar cut had been found on the langur enclosure.
Fortunately, all langurs were in their habitat and accounted for.
What about the vulture?
About a week after the habitat was vandalized, a critically endangered 35-year-old vulture was found dead, and the cause was quickly considered “unusual” by zoo staff.
The bird, named Pin, was one of four vultures in the zoo. He lived at the Dallas Zoo for 33 years.
What is suspicious about the death of a vulture?
At first, officials only said that Ping’s death was not due to natural causes, but after the zoo’s veterinary team performed an autopsy – or an autopsy on the animal – they found that the bird had been found with a “wound”.
Officials declined to expand on their findings, citing an ongoing investigation.
Are all these incidents related?
Dallas police said they have not yet determined if habitat vandalism and the vulture’s death are linked.
Who is investigating these incidents?
Dallas police are taking the lead and said their detectives have been actively interviewing zoo staff and gathering footage since Monday.
Following the vulture’s death, the department also turned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for help.
Have there been security improvements?
Before the series of incidents began, the zoo already had over 100 cameras to monitor the public, staff and animals. Since then, the zoo has expanded camera coverage to include Dallas Police’s solar towers.
Night security and staff presence have doubled, and in some cases the zoo restricts animals from roaming the open areas of their enclosures during the night.
“We are going to continue to expand and implement everything necessary to ensure security [of] animals, staff and people who live near the zoo,” said Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson.
What did I hear about the $10,000 reward?
The Dallas Zoo is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to arrest and charges in a recent spate of incidents at the scene, including ruptures in animal enclosures and the “unusual death” of an endangered vulture.
Anyone with information about any of the cases is asked to call the Dallas Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Unit at 214-670-7694.
Dallas Zoo offers $10,000 reward for vulture arrest and habitat vandalism
What do zoo officials say about all this?
Hudson, the zoo’s president and CEO, called the recent incidents “totally unprecedented and disturbing” during a press conference on Monday, adding that he had never seen “anything like it” in his long career in zoos.
Well, when will we know more?
We do not have a firm answer to this. Information about these cases is released at the discretion of zoo officials and law enforcement, who say they can’t reveal too many details given the pending investigation.
As of Wednesday, the zoo has not scheduled another press conference.