Dallas Zoo monkeys found unharmed but a little lighter in Lancaster home owned by church

The emperor tamarin monkeys who went missing from the Dallas Zoo on Monday morning and were found Tuesday have lost a little weight but show no signs of injury, according to the zoo.

Zoo officials realized that Bella and Finn, the monkeys, had been taken out of the zoo after their enclosure was found to be tampered with, according to police and zoo officials. They were found by Dallas police in a house in Lancaster.

By Wednesday, after a visit with the veterinarian, the two were “happy to snuggle into their nest sack here at the zoo,” officials said. They won’t be returned to their habitat for some time because they need to undergo a quarantine after being taken from zoo grounds.

Dallas police said that they found the monkeys in a closet at the boarded-up home in Lancaster. Zoo officials sent a team to transport the emperor tamarin monkeys back to the zoo that night.

Dallas officers, with the help of the Lancaster Police Department, retrieved the animals about 4:50 p.m. after receiving a tip about their location, police said in a statement.

The house was empty when police arrived. The investigation is ongoing, and no arrests have been made.

The monkeys were found with the help of members of a Lancaster church, who led authorities to the home, the Dallas Morning News reported. Tonya Thomas, the daughter of Family Center Church of God in Christ in Lancaster’s pastor, said the monkeys were found in the church’s community house, next door to the church. The church had boarded up the home but it wasn’t abandoned.

Thomas and church officials could not be reached by the Star-Telegram on Wednesday.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Thomas said church members had previously found other animals including chickens, pigeons, other birds, and cats inside the home in the 2500 block of Gerry Way Street, about 20 minutes from the zoo. She also said they found blankets and canned food that suggested a person had been staying there.

After being contacted by the church, Dallas police found the monkeys in a closet of the home. Officers also reportedly found more birds and cats in the house.

“I was just shocked,” Thomas told the Dallas Morning News. “I didn’t think somebody would go as far as to go to the Dallas Zoo and take monkeys and bring them to this location.”

Police earlier on Tuesday released an image from surveillance video and asked the public to help them identify a man who might have information about the disappearance of the monkeys. Thomas told the Dallas Morning News that the man appeared to be someone who had visited the church before and “had acted off.” Thomas’ sister called police after family members saw the man’s photo.

“We cannot thank the Dallas PD enough for their quick response and assistance in locating the tamarins,” the Dallas Zoo said in a statement Wednesday. “We are pleased that video from our surveillance cameras — which we shared with DPD — seems to have been critical in generating a tip that led to the recovery of the tamarins.”

This is the latest in a string of incidents at the zoo in which officials say the habitats of animals, including some endangered, have been intentionally tampered with. On Jan. 22, the zoo announced an endangered vulture named Pin had died with a suspicious wound after its enclosure had been tampered with.

About a week before, a clouded leopard, Nova, got out of her habitat after someone broke into it, according to the zoo. Also recently, another monkey enclosure was found to be cut into. None of those monkeys went missing.

Nova was later found in the zoo and returned to her exhibit, according to officials.

When the emperor tamarin monkeys were discovered missing Monday, Dallas Zoo officials said they suspected that they were stolen from their habitat because they were surprised when the animals, which typically stay close to home, could not be located on zoo property. Police have said someone intentionally cut into their enclosure.

The zoo is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or people responsible for the recent string of incidents.