A man arriving at Mexico City International Airport (MEX) from Lima, Peru was arrested with eighteen endangered and rare Titi monkeys concealed in a girdle under his T-shirt. The animals were stuffed into socks which were then tied together. According to the Associated Press, Roberto Cabrera arrived in Mexico on a commercial flight last Friday, July 16, from Peru. Authorities noticed a suspicious bulge and conducted a full body search.
Cabrera had originally placed the animals in a suitcase, but later concealed them on his body, fearing that the X-rays from the security scanners might injure or reveal them. Two of the tiny monkeys apparently had died anyway from asphyxiation.
The Public Safety Department of Mexico said in a statement Monday, July 19, that Cabrera was carrying the 6-inch (15-centimeter) Titi monkeys in pouches attached to the girdle. He was arrested on charges of trafficking an endangered species.
CAPTIONS: (ABOVE LEFT) Coppery Titi monekey (Wikipedia common usage public domain); (BELOW RIGHT) A pair of Bolivian Gray or White-Eared Titis, Callicebus donacophilus, hugging tails at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.(Wikipedia common usage public domain); (BELOW LEFT) Common Marmoset (Wikipedia common usage public domain)
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The incident was similar to a situation last November 21, when Michael Plank of Lomita, CA, was arrested at LAX with 15 lizards concealed in a money pouch strapped to his torso. Plank had arrived on a flight from Australia, and was also charged with trafficking endangered species, which carries a possible 20 year federal prison term in the United States.
In August 2007, a passenger was caught with a Marmoset, another species of monkey, that had also originated on a flight from Lima, Peru. According to Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell, the man had arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida from Peru, and had boarded a connecting flight to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York. He had concealed the animal under his hat. During the flight, other passengers noticed the Marmocet clinging to his pony tail. Marmosets normally live in forests and eat wild fruit, insects, and leaves. When the plane landed the man was taken away for questioning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took the animal for disease testing and kept it quarantined for 31 days, according to a CDC spokesman.
It is not uncommon for TSA, U.S. Customs, and other law enforcement agencies to intercept contraband wildlife and restricted carry on items. According to TSA spokesperson Suzanne Trevino, there have been a number of sightings of prohibited items, including a lizard in the groin area of a man’s pocket in Tampa, a 10 point deer antler at Oklahoma City, a six foot African spear at JFK, and numerous incidents of tarantulas, alligators, fish, cats, dogs, turtles and snakes. The live cargo smuggled onboard are violations of airline regulations as well as various Federal laws protecting endangered species, and regulating movement of animals across borders.
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