SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Three baby spider monkeys hidden in animal carriers were discovered in a vehicle attempting to cross the border earlier this week at the Calexico West Port of Entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.
CBP says a 29-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man driving a van were attempting to smuggle the animals into the U.S.
During an initial inspection, a CBP officer discovered an animal carrier hidden behind the rear seat that contained live monkeys.
The officer sent the occupants and vehicle to secondary inspection for further investigation.
CBP officers discovered a total of three live, baby spider monkeys in two separate carriers.
The animals were removed from the vehicle and placed in a “safe and secure area” according to a CBP news release.
The monkeys will remain in quarantine under the supervision of USDA Veterinary Services until a proper home is found for them.
“Illegal smuggling of endangered species, such as spider monkeys, poses a grave threat to the ecosystem,” stated Roque Caza, Area Port Director for Calexico. “CBP will continue to stop individuals involved in the unlawful, commercial trafficking and smuggling of wildlife.”
CBP officers detained the occupants of the vehicle and turned them over to the custody of Homeland Security Investigators and Fish and Wildlife Services for further processing.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, spider monkeys are “critically endangered” due to loss of fragmentation, hunting and the pet trade.
A website called A-Z-Animals estimates spider monkeys cost anywhere from $6,000 to $14,000 in the illegal exotic animal market.
CBP says it works with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to enforce wildlife trade laws.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, people found guilty of smuggling endangered animals into the country face fines of up $25,000 for each violation.