Feb 10, 2023 - News

Houston Zoo on "highest alert" after enclosure is vandalized

An entrance to the Houston Zoo with "Houston Zoo" spelled out

The Houston Zoo remains open as police investigate. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Houston Zoo officials are still puzzled about how someone was able to cut a 4-inch gap in a bird enclosure.

Catch up quick: Zookeepers found the hole in a mesh enclosure over the brown pelican habitat at the Children's Zoo on Monday afternoon.

  • The gap appeared to be an act of vandalism, according to zoo officials.
  • None of the birds were harmed or missing, and no other enclosures were reported damaged.

Driving the news: Houston police are in the process of collecting statements from zoo employees, according to HPD spokesperson Victor Senties.

  • The incident is being investigated as criminal mischief.

What they're saying: "The Houston Zoo is prepared to prosecute to the fullest extent allowed by law anyone who compromises the animals in our care," zoo officials said in a statement. "We will not tolerate the theft or endangerment of any of our animals, big or small."

  • "These animals represent their wild counterparts and are entirely dependent upon the expert care of our staff. Actions that threaten that care are unacceptable, dangerous and criminal."

Yes, but: Zoo officials declined to comment on any potential heightened security measures.

  • "We are on the highest alert, with the imperative of maintaining a safe environment for our guests, staff and animals," zoo spokesperson Jackie Wallace told Axios.

The intrigue: The incident at the Houston Zoo came about two weeks after a man allegedly stole two tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo. Police have also linked the suspect to recent incidents involving langur monkeys and a clouded leopard enclosure at the Dallas Zoo.

  • It's unlikely the two incidents are connected, since the man accused of the Dallas theft remains in custody. But the Houston incident could be a lower-stakes copycat crime.

Zoom out: After the Dallas incidents, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — which accredits the Houston and Dallas zoos — told its members to be on alert.

  • "​​AZA encourages its members to provide every support possible to the Dallas Zoo and to be extra cautious and alert until all responsible parties are apprehended," AZA officials said in a statement.

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