UPDATED: Monkeys Go Missing From Dallas Zoo Weeks After Clouded Leopard Freed From Habitat

UPDATE, 2/1/2023: A tip led police to an empty home in Lancaster, Texas, about 15 miles from the zoo. The missing tamarins were found inside a closet and were unharmed, per CNN. They were returned to the zoo and examined by veterinarians.

Police still want to speak to an unidentified man (see story below) who was seen on zoo grounds, but they haven’t said what the man was doing or how he may be connected to the thefts. The abduction of the tamarins follows two other incidents of breached enclosures at the zoo, and the theft of 12 squirrel monkeys from Zoosiana in Broussard, Louisiana, this weekend.

Original story, 1/31/2023:

Dallas police released a photo of a “person of interest” they’d like to speak to after a pair of emperor tamarin monkeys went missing from their enclosure in the Dallas Zoo, the latest of three incidents in which animal habitats at the zoo were breached by human hands.

The first incident happened on Jan. 13 when zookeepers noticed a three-year-old clouded leopard named Nova was missing from her enclosure. They found a breach in the mesh netting that serves as one of enclosure barriers, and said it was a clean, intentional cut with a blade, not from the animals.

After a frantic search — and multiple appeals to the public informing people the leopard was not dangerous and should not be shot — zookeepers found Nova hiding in a tree on the zoo grounds, not far from her enclosure. Nova’s sister, Luna, lives in the same enclosure and remained there.

That same day, staff at the zoo also found another breach, this time at the langur exhibit. Langurs are old-world, leaf-eating monkeys native to Asia. None of the monkeys were missing, but the discovery strengthened the suspicion that someone had tried to steal Nova and at least one monkey, but were not successful.

Now it appears that same person or a copycat has been successful in another habitat. On Jan. 30, zookeepers found a breach in a habitat that hold’s the zoo’s emperor tamarin monkeys. Two of the monkeys were missing.

Tamarins are tiny arboreal new world monkeys that have become popular pets due to “influencers” popularizing them on sites like Youtube and celebrities purchasing them.

A tamarin mother with her babies. Primate babies are virtually attached to their mothers for the first years of their lives

There are an estimated 15,000 monkeys living as pets in the US, and some species fetch up to $7,500 as infants, when they’re violently “pulled” from their mothers when they’re just days old and sold. Most are temporary pets, lasting up to two years before docile, adorable infants become destructive, resentful juveniles and the “owners” decide to cut their losses. Buying monkeys as pets and subsequently abandoning them has become so common that sanctuary spots are at a premium, with a handful of sanctuaries taking thousands of monkeys annually.

Some people buy new babies every year or two, shipping the “old” ones off to sanctuaries — or simply dumping them in the woods where they don’t know how to fend for themselves — and repeating the process of infantalizing newly-purchased monkeys. Macaques, capuchins, marmosets and tamarins are the most popular monkeys kept as pets.

Despite the appeal to some people, humans cannot meet the social or environmental needs of monkeys, who naturally live in troops with complex social hierarchies and relationships.

“Monkeys are not surrogate children, and they’re not little people,” the Humane Society’s Debbie Leahy told the New York Post in a 2013 story.

“Pulling” monkeys from their mothers traumatizes infants and the mothers, and there is a wealth of data from primate maternal deprivation studies — going all the way back to the cruel experiments of psychologist Harry Harlow — documenting the psychological damage done to the animals when they’re removed from their mothers and troops.

“If you try to keep them as pets you’re creating a mentally disturbed animal in 99.9 percent of the cases,” Kevin Wright, director of conservation, science and sanctuary at Phoenix Zoo told National Geographic. “The animal will never be able to fit in any other home. Never learn how to get along with other monkeys. And, more often than not, will end up with a lot of behavioral traits that are self-destructive.”

A rhesus monkey baby, already separated from its mother at just a few days old.

Tamarins, which are often called “pocket monkeys” by people who keep them as pets, can fetch up to $5,000 apiece, generally less than larger primates like capuchins or macaques. Demand for macaques has skyrocketed since the pandemic, as laboratories test various drugs on the old world monkeys, and prices for infants have risen as well.

Despite officials at Dallas Zoo installing additional cameras and increasingly patrols on the grounds at night, an intruder or intruders were able to evade detection and successfully remove the animals some time between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Police have released an image of a man who was seen strolling through the zoo and have asked for the public’s help identifying him so detectives can speak with him. Police did not say why they believe the man, who is pictured wearing a hooded jacket and eating Doritos, would have information on the missing animals or what his role might be.

close up photo of a tamarin monkey
An emperor tamarin. Credit: Nathan J Hilton/Pexels

16 thoughts on “UPDATED: Monkeys Go Missing From Dallas Zoo Weeks After Clouded Leopard Freed From Habitat”

    1. There are, and they increased the number who patrol the zoo at night, in addition to installing more cameras. Whoever is responsible for the break-ins seems to know the zoo and its security measures well enough to avoid the guards and cameras, even if their first two attempts at stealing animals were not succesful.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. 👍God help you if you try to go into an area of the Brooklyn Zoo where you are not supposed to be.That goes double for Brooklyn Museum.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I just saw that photo of baby monkey and that sick website where you can buy exotic animals. WTF?!! And how is that legal?! Or am i asking a stupid question?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It’s legal in quite a few states, unfortunately. Private ape ownership has been abolished, but monkeys are still in demand and the monkey breeding business is thriving. A large number of people who buy them are childless couples and empty nesters who like the idea of having “perpetual babies,” as one of the women in the embedded documentary says.

        The truth is, it’s impossible for people to meet the needs of monkeys, and everyone thinks they’ll be the ones who figure it out, but then they’re hit wish a harsh dose of reality as the monkey gets older.

        In the wild, macaques and others live in troops of up to several hundred monkeys, with very detailed hierarchies and social relationships. Capuchins, marmosets and tamarins live in smaller groups, from small families up to 10 or 15 monkeys, but they have the same social needs.

        The monkeys groom each other constantly, forage for food together, care for each other’s babies, serve as look-outs for the troop, find mates, and do a ton of other things that are natural to them, which they cannot do in human homes.

        So you see these people buying babies, and they’re thrilled when they’ve got adorable infants in tiny diapers, sitting in their high chairs and (they wrongly think) smiling. But they grow up fast. By a year they’re fully ambulatory and want to run, jump and climb stuff. By a year and a half or two years, they start to feel something’s wrong and begin to resent living in human homes. They develop behavioral “problems,” which are really just frustrations at being in an unnatural environment.

        Monkeys have no concept of what it means to “behave” by human standards, nor do they understand the concepts of cleanliness, using the bathroom, etc. So people who keep them as pets keep them in diapers, and either they let them run wild, or they break their will so the monkey is scared to move and “behaves.”

        It’s really a horrible situation all around, most especially for the monkeys, who begin a life of trauma from the minute the breeders pull them out of the arms of their screaming, kicking mothers.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. It is a horrible situation for sure, and the practice goes back a long way. My father was a Marine who fought in the Pacific during WWII, and ended up with a pet monkey obtained from a street vendor in exchange for cigarettes. The monkey was in a bad situation with that owner, so Dad decided to get him out. Chi Chi was a handful. Dad had to leave the monkey there with someone else when it was time to come home, per regulations.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Do you remember which country? In Indonesia they sell baby monkeys in stalls as if they were chickens. Some people buy them as pets, some buy them to kill and eat, some buy them to train for street monkey shows, called “topeng monyet.” (Dancing monkey.)

        In Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, people sell them casually. It’s common to see them chained up in backyards.

        And in China…ugh. I don’t even want to get into that.

        Your dad was trying to do a good thing and hopefully the poor monkey ended up with a better life. He must have seen enough for a lifetime on a Pacific WWII deployment. I’m sure he had some stories.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. I believe it was China. He had been sent there to recover after receiving a bayonet wound to the back. I think the monkey was a rhesus. Dad had a few stories but on the whole would not talk about it. Today he would have been diagnosed with PTSD.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. From reading the articles it sounds like an ‘inside job’ doesn’t it Big Buddy & Buddy?
    I am saddened to read how so many baby monkeys are torn from their Mothers’ & what happens. Why do people do such nasty crap to animals?
    And for the animals that live in Zoo’s & are dependant upon the people there to care for them; why ‘set them free’? Those animals are NOT WILD & not in their natural domain!!!
    Sometimes the Human race baffles me 1505 more than the Animal Kingdom! Know what I mean?
    😦 Sherri-Ellen aka BellaSita Mum an ***growlss*** BellaDharma

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As a kid i rooted for the apes in Planet Of The Apes movies. As a child i knew this was DEAD WRONG. I did not have to be told this was animal cruelty to be caged and abused.

      Liked by 2 people

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