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Church members say their tip led police to the missing monkeys from the Dallas Zoo

They say they called police after recognizing a picture police released of a person of interest.
Credit: Dallas Police Department
The Dallas Zoo's two missing emperor tamarin monkeys, as found by Dallas Police officers in Lancaster.

DALLAS — The Dallas Zoo released two new pictures of the Tamarin monkeys safe and back home.

That’s in contrast to the video WFAA exclusively obtained when they were found Tuesday inside a vacant church in Lancaster.

We spoke by phone with the pastor’s daughter, Tonya Thomas.

”It’s cold, it’s dark and whoever put the monkeys in there had to use flashlights or something but yeah, they could have died in there,” Thomas.

Church members tipped off police after they saw a picture released by DPD. Detectives didn’t call him a suspect but said they wanted to talk to him after the zoo’s surveillance cameras caught him on video the night the monkeys disappeared.

”People in the neighborhood say they would see him in the neighborhood walking with different animals so we thought it might be him. He’s from the neighborhood and visited our church that’s how we knew it was him,” said Thomas.

So they called police. Sources say it was 37 degrees inside the church when the monkeys were found.

The zoo says they had lost weight but appeared to be OK.

Thomas says they were planning to renovate the church but in November someone began breaking into the building and causing damage.

”He had torn up stuff and rearranged and sectioned off different rooms and had animals in different sections of the house,” said Thomas.

Police still want to talk to the man about the monkeys and other incidents including a clouded leopard that appeared to be cut out of its cage, a vulture that was stabbed and missing fish and other zoo equipment.

”We are shocked and devastated by, and there is no other way to say it but, a criminal attack on the zoo in the last 3 weeks,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo President.

A statement issued by the Association of Zoos and aquariums says the “Dallas Zoo and its animals are victims of acts, presumably intended to take animals for personal reason or worse to be trafficked.”

Councilwoman Carolyn King Arnold said nearby residents are concerned about the flaws in security.

”If someone decided to create a scenario that threatens their public with letting an animal out that may endanger their pets, you know they are concerned,” said King.

King and the Zoo say they have doubled security, fixed fences, added extra Dallas police patrols, and installed more cameras in hopes of preventing anything else from happening.

The zoo told WFAA that it is offering a reward of $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of whoever was responsible for any of the incidents. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact 214-670-7694. 

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