The Dallas Zoo is offering a $10,000 reward for information about how one of its endangered vultures died under “very suspicious” circumstances.
The lappet-faced vulture named Pin was around 35 years old and discovered dead in its habitat Saturday morning with a “wound” to its body, the zoo said during a press conference.
An animal autopsy confirmed the death was not natural and police are looking into multiple possibilities, including that the death and other strange occurences at the zoo could have been an inside job.
“We’re also very disturbed by the idea that someone might have intentionally done this,” Harrison Edell of the Dallas Zoo said.
Park officials would not elaborate on the nature of the injury, but did share that anyone who might have hurt “Pin”, as he was named, would have had to get past barriers surrounding its enclosure.
“Everything is under suspect at this point — internal, external — we’re looking at every single option,” Zoo President Gregg Hudson revealed.
“I’ve been in the zoo profession over 30-plus years, and never had a situation like what happened Saturday. It’s unprecedented and very disturbing,” he added.
Police were called in, not only because of the bird’s demise, but also because a leopard escaped its habitat last week at the same zoo. Officials believe someone had intentionally cut open the wild cat’s enclosure, as well as another which housed a monkey. Nova, the clouded leopard, was later found.
“If this is related to anything with the clouded leopard before, it definitely crosses some sort of barrier,” Hudson added. “It really goes from malicious to criminal intent. That is dangerous.”
Investigators are reviewing footage from 100+ cameras on the zoo’s grounds. Additional security, including equipment on loan from law enforcement, has been brought in to prevent the culprit from striking again.
Additional staff and security have also been added to cover overnight hours.
Given the vulture’s protected species status, US Fish and Wildlife has joined the investigation.
“This is a species that could go extinct in our lifetime,” Edell explained.
Pin lived at the Dallas Zoo for 33 years and is one of only 27 of his kind alive at US wildlife facilities.
Dallas police ask anyone with information to call 214-670-7694, adding those responsible could face felony charges.