A dozen squirrel monkeys were stolen from a Louisiana zoo, officials say

A dozen squirrel monkeys were stolen from a Louisiana zoo Saturday, less than two days before a pair of monkeys were stolen from the Dallas Zoo, officials say.

The person who stole the animals in Louisiana broke into Zoosiana in Broussard — a city about 7 miles southeast of Lafayette — just before midnight and stole the animals from a squirrel monkey exhibit, the zoo said in a Facebook post.

“It’s a very sad situation, obviously, we’re heartbroken,” Zoosania General Manager Matt Oldenburg told the NBC affiliate KLAF of Lafayette.

The zoo’s veterinarian and animal care team have inspected the remaining monkeys and determined “there are no other apparent issues affecting their health or well-being.”

A squirrel monkey
A squirrel monkey.Jean-Francois Monier / AFP via Getty Images file

Zoo officials are working with local, state and federal agencies to investigate the theft, according to the Facebook post. Broussard Police Chief Vance Olivier told KLAF that authorities are reviewing surveillance footage from around the zoo to try to locate a suspect, who will face a burglary charge.

The theft happened less than two days before the pair of emperor tamarin monkeys were reported missing from their enclosure at the Dallas Zoo in what investigators believed was a theft. Those monkeys were found Tuesday in the closet of an abandoned home in Lancaster, a city about 16 miles south of Dallas. The monkeys have been returned to the Dallas Zoo, no arrests have been made and an investigation into the animals’ disappearance is ongoing, the department said.

The theft of the monkeys in Dallas was the latest in a string of suspicious events to occur at the zoo: a 35-year-old endangered vulture was found dead there Jan. 21 with what authorities described as “an unusual wound.”

Earlier in the month, a clouded leopard escaped its enclosure after it was intentionally cut, according to authorities, who said the langur monkey habitat area was also cut but none of those animals escaped. The leopard was eventually captured and returned to its enclosure.

A spokesperson for the zoo previously said it has tightened security by adding more overnight guards and cameras. The zoo also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and an indictment in the incidents, according to the spokesperson.

A Dallas Police Department spokesperson told NBC News the agency is aware of the theft of the monkeys in Louisiana and that it’s “going to be part of the ongoing investigation.”

A spokesperson for the Broussard Police Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Squirrel monkeys are native to South America and have an average lifespan of 21 years, according to Animal Diversity Web, an online database maintained by the University of Michigan. They live in groups of up to 300 monkeys, “with the females forming the central core of the group,” according to the database, which adds that they can live easily in captivity and were once sold as pets.

Under Louisiana state law, keeping monkeys as pets is illegal, according to the Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University.

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