Dallas Zoo offers reward for arrest in ‘unusual’ vulture death, habitat vandalism

The zoo is offering $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest and indictment in the cases.

Dallas Zoo offers $10,000 reward for arrest in vulture death, habitat vandalism
Updated at 3:31 p.m. to include information from a Dallas Zoo news conference.

The Dallas Zoo is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and indictment in a recent string of on-site incidents, including tears in animal enclosures and the “unusual death” of an endangered vulture.

Pin, one of four lappet-faced vultures at the zoo, was found dead in his enclosure over the weekend, which officials quickly deemed “suspicious.” At a news conference Monday, Dallas Zoo President and CEO Gregg Hudson said the zoo’s veterinary team conducted a necropsy, but declined to expand on the findings other than revealing the bird was found with “a wound.”

Zoo spokeswoman Kari Streiber previously said Pin’s death did “not appear to be from natural causes,” but couldn’t share any other details until police were able to investigate.

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The death comes just more than a week after an hourslong search for a missing clouded leopard, Nova, spurred a criminal investigation. She was found inside the zoo the same day. Police believe the cat’s enclosure was intentionally cut open, along with a habitat for langur monkeys. Police have not yet determined if the incidents are related.

On Monday, Dallas police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman said detectives have begun interviewing zoo staff members and gathering video surveillance, adding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now assisting in the investigation.

Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and CEO, spoke during a press conference at the Dallas Zoo in Dallas on Monday, Jan. 23. Hudson announced a $10,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and indictment in the cases regarding a vulture death and torn enclosures.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

“It’s totally unprecedented and disturbing,” Hudson said, stating he has never seen “anything like this” in his decadeslong career working at zoos.

Hudson said before the incidents began, the zoo already had more than 100 cameras on-site monitoring the public, staff and animals. It has since increased camera coverage, including adding solar tower units from Dallas police and has more than doubled its overnight security and staff presence.

Where “it was feasible,” Hudson said, the zoo has also limited some animals’ ability to roam in the outdoor areas of their enclosures overnight.

“We’re going to continue to expand and implement whatever it takes for the safety and security [of] the animals, staff and the people who live near the zoo,” Hudson said.

Anyone with information about any of the cases is asked to call the Dallas Police Department’s animal cruelty unit at 214-670-7694.

What kind of bird was Pin?

Pin was at least 35 years old and had been at the zoo for 33 years. The other three vultures, two males and one female, remain at the zoo in the Wilds of Africa habitat.

Pin, an endangered vulture at the Dallas Zoo, was found dead over the weekend under suspicious circumstances. Police are investigating the death.(Dallas Zoo)

Pin had sired 11 offspring, which now live in zoos across the country, including in New Mexico, Georgia, Florida and Ohio. His first “grandchild” hatched in early 2020 and lives at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Lappet-faced vultures are considered endangered with a chance to move to critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are likely only about 6,500 of the species left with 27 in U.S. zoos and 41 in Europe and the Middle East.

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