Man who abducted monkeys from Dallas Zoo told police he ‘loved animals,’ affidavit says

The man arrested on multiple counts of animal cruelty and burglary after a series of incidents at the Dallas Zoo told police that he “loved animals,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

Davion Irvin, 24, who was booked into the Dallas County Jail on Thursday, is accused of stealing two emperor tamarin monkeys from the zoo and cutting into other habitats since January. In one instance, a clouded leopard named Nova escaped from her enclosure. In another, the habitat of some langur monkeys was cut open. Police also are investigating the death of an endangered vulture, Pin, with a suspicious wound but have not linked Irvin to that case, authorities said.

The Star-Telegram has requested a copy of the arrest warrant affidavit.

The incidents led the zoo to increase security and install additional cameras, but the break-ins kept happening. The incidents prompted the Fort Worth Zoo to increase its security, as well.

Irvin was identified based on surveillance images from the Dallas Zoo, where according to the arrest warrant and the Dallas Morning News, employees noted strange behavior from Irvin. He would ask employees questions like where they got the animals, where the animals went at night, what their schedules were and if they were ever violent.

Irvin was arrested at the Dallas World Aquarium, where authorities said he may have been planning to commit another crime.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the home in which the monkeys were found also had other animals inside, including goldfish authorities believe were stolen from the zoo.

A series of break-ins at the zoo

International headlines shared the story of a series of strange break-ins at the zoo that seemed to defy increasingly tight security and baffle authorities.

The first incident at the Dallas Zoo on Jan. 13 led to the disappearance of Nova, a clouded leopard. Zoo officials said Nova was discovered to be missing after her handlers found a hole cut in her enclosure on Jan. 13. The zoo called police because the enclosure appeared to be intentionally cut and began a search.

Nova was later found in the zoo and returned to her habitat.

Irvin told police he intended to take Nova “but could only manage to pet it” because she leaped over the enclosure and he couldn’t catch her, according to the documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News.

The Dallas Zoo was shut down Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, after announcing a clouded leopard had gone missing. Nova was later found on the zoo grounds.
The Dallas Zoo was shut down Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, after announcing a clouded leopard had gone missing. Nova was later found on the zoo grounds.

The next day, officials announced they’d also found the langur monkey exhibit broken into. None of the monkeys were missing or harmed. Then on Jan. 21, the zoo announced the endangered vulture, Pin, was found dead under unusual circumstances in its habitat. Police said Irvin is accused in the langur monkey break-in but they haven’t determined if he was connected to Pin’s death.

Nine days later, emperor tamarin monkeys Bella and Finn went missing, their enclosure cut open. The two monkeys were found in a home in Lancaster after tips from the family that owned the home and ran the church next door. Church members said it appeared Irvin had been sleeping at the house.

How it happened

Police said in the warrant that Irvin told them he abducted the monkeys on the night of Jan. 29, breaking into the zoo by jumping a fence after dark on the Claredon Drive side of the property, the Dallas Morning News reported. He cut through metal mesh to get to a door and then cut the enclosure where the monkeys were and took them. Police shared photographs in the affidavit showing a large square cut in the metal mesh.

From there, according to the Dallas Morning News, Irvin took a DART train and then walked to the abandoned home in Lancaster, where he put the monkeys in a room with no access to natural light or outside air.

There, police also found cats and 13 pigeons inside the home, according to the Dallas Morning News. Police said they believe Irvin was preparing to commit another crime at the Dallas World Aquarium when he was arrested there.

Irvin is being held in the Dallas County Jail on $25,000 bond.