Mexican national arrested trying to smuggle two howler monkeys across Texas border into US

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(NEW YORK) -- A Mexican citizen has been arrested for attempting to smuggle two live howler monkeys in his vehicle while crossing over into the United States.

The incident occurred on Monday when the 29-year-old male Mexican citizen was attempting entry into the United States in his 2015 Chevrolet pickup when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers along with agricultural specialists at the Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge in Texas managed to intercept two live howler monkeys in the suspect’s vehicle, according to a statement released by CBP on Wednesday.

“Our frontline CBP officers’ diligence in the performance of their duties led them to the discovery of two live howler monkeys transported in a vehicle,” said Acting Port Director Michael B. Reyes, Brownsville Port of Entry. “CBP remains committed to preventing the exploitation of protected animals and the spread of animal diseases.”

Authorities did not disclose what led them to suspect the smuggling attempt of the howler monkeys but did say that CBP officers referred the vehicle for a secondary inspection. It was during that secondary inspection that CBP officers and agriculture specialists discovered two live howler monkeys inside the vehicle.

Homeland Security Investigations special agents initiated a criminal investigation and arrested the driver, according to CBP. The suspect’s vehicle was subsequently seized and the monkeys were turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where it was decided they will be housed at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, for the time being.

“CBP would like to remind the public of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) regulations that prohibit live birds, fresh eggs, and raw poultry from Mexico,” CBP said in their statement regarding the incident.

Mexico is affected with virulent Newcastle disease and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, according to USDA APHIS. Both of these diseases affect poultry, are “serious diseases of concern and are highly contagious.”

“In addition, howler monkeys are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, their importation is regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” CBP continued. “Ultimately monkeys are prohibited from importation as pets.”

Said CBP: “On the border at land, air, and sea-based ports of entry, including Laredo, CBP officers and agriculture specialists continue to fulfill CBP’s agriculture mission by excluding harmful pests and diseases from becoming established in the United States.”

Thursday, March 7, 2024 at 5:55AM by Jon Haworth, ABC News Permalink