Jan 26, 2023 - News

Escaped leopard, dead vulture raise concerns at the Dallas Zoo

A big endangered vulture

Pin, the lappet-faced vulture. Photo: Courtesy of Dallas Zoo

A series of recent incidents — including an escaped leopard, two torn enclosures and the suspicious death of a vulture — have raised security concerns at the Dallas Zoo.

The latest: The zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the death of Pin, an endangered lappet-faced vulture that was found dead Saturday morning.

  • Zoo officials said Pin had "an unusual wound" and the death is "very suspicious."

The big picture: The vulture's death occurred just days after Nova, a clouded leopard, escaped its enclosure. Nova was eventually found onsite but not before inspiring copious social media reactions.

  • The zoo said Nova escaped through a cut in the mesh surrounding the leopard habitat. Police have opened a criminal investigation, assisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, noting that the cut was "intentional."
  • The zoo found a similar cut at the langur monkeys' enclosure — though none of the monkeys left the exhibit.

What's happening: The zoo has increased security efforts across the 110-acre campus, including doubling the number of overnight security guards and adding cameras borrowed from Dallas police to the 100-plus cameras already on zoo grounds, Dallas Zoo CEO Gregg Hudson said at a press conference this week.

  • The zoo has also limited some animals' ability to go outdoors overnight.

Flashback: Three giraffes at the Dallas Zoo died in the span of a month in 2021.

Details: Pin was at least 35 years old and lived at the zoo for 33 years. The vulture, one of four at the Dallas Zoo, sired 11 offspring. Those birds now live at other zoos, including the Cincinnati Zoo and Zoo Atlanta.

  • Pin's first grandbird hatched in 2020 and now lives at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, per zoo officials.
  • Only about 6,500 members of the species are left in the world.
  • The Dallas Zoo helps manage the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' species survival plan for lappet-faced vultures.

What they're saying: "Pin was a beloved member of the bird department," Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo's executive vice president for animal care and conservation, told reporters.

  • "Deaths are always difficult. But this is especially challenging. There's a good chance lappet-faced vultures could move to critically endangered or even go extinct in our lifetime," Edell said.

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