After someone released one of its monkeys recently, an exotic animal rescue center in Wood County is closing permanently.

Located near Mineola, Mini S Exotic Zoo, also known as Conservation & Advocacy For Rare & Endangered Species, announced its closure on Facebook in a Jan. 29 post.

On Jan. 26, an 8-year-old capuchin monkey was let out of its habitat and authorities located the monkey the next morning about a mile from Mini S Exotic Zoo, Wood County Sheriff Tom Castloo said.

Michelle Smith, owner and operator of the zoo, was able to return the animal to its enclosure. In the Facebook post, Smith addressed the impact of the incident on the animals.

“This illegal act puts the animals’ lives in danger as they could not survive without heat, water and proper nutrition. Amazingly and with much expert help and search crews, we were able to safely return them into their protected habitat with nutritious diet,” Smith wrote. “We cannot allow animals and humans to be abused and endangered after spending 25 years of rescuing and protecting.”

Smith said the zoo is closing to protect its animals and staff and they are working to find homes for the animals in “safe and secure environments.”

According to its Facebook page, Mini S Exotic Zoo is a United States Department of Agriculture licensed facility and private educational touring site that houses exotic wildlife from across the globe. The center is a USDA and Texas Parks and Wildlife compliant facility.

Smith gave her appreciation to those who supported the rescue center and the schools, colleges, vet tech programs, vet offices, scout programs and people who helped the zoo succeed.

“With everyone in our hearts – you have all given me the best reward in life, sharing and helping these magnificent beings,” Smith said.

Castloo said the break in of the rescue center is under investigation.

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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.

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