Woman found smuggled spider monkeys in gym bag across US border

A spider monkey at Simon Bolivar Zoo in Costa Rica. On Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection announced that it had seized four spider monkeys from a United States citizen who was attempting to smuggle them across the border.
HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP / Getty Images

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents made an “unusual” discovery in Progreso, Texas late last week: four spider monkeys concealed in a gym bag.

According to a press release from CBP on Tuesday, officers and agricultural specialists at the Progreso International Bridge discovered the primates after inspecting a 20-year-old woman crossing the border. She was driving a 2017 Jeep Patriot and identified herself as a U.S. citizen.

“During their inspections, our officers will often encounter a myriad of prohibited agricultural products,” Walter Weaver, manager of the port of Progreso, said in a statement. “Sometimes these encounters result in hidden exotic animals, like in this case.”

Spider monkeys are considered “New World” apes because they are one of the five primate families found in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Within the genus of spider monkeys, there are seven individual species, all of which are listed as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered.

Authorities removed the four undocumented primates from the bag and placed them in an “animal container.”

After safely retrieving the monkeys, CBP officers contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for further information. The agency confirmed that the primates were indeed spider monkeys. He stressed that the animals are considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The woman was “fined,” according to the CBP press release. The monkeys, meanwhile, were returned to Mexico.

“While CBP officers and agricultural specialists regularly face farm law violations, such as banned fruits and vegetables, encounters with undeclared live animals such as primates rarely occur,” a CBP spokesperson explained in an email to News week.

Spider monkeys are just a few of the countless bizarre objects that have been seized by CBP agents.

In July, officers in Memphis, Tennessee, confiscated 489 grams of methamphetamine hidden in individual peanut shells. As a spokesperson for the agency said News week that the case exhibited a “very unusual smuggling method”.

Also in July, authorities seized more than 6,000 false eyelashes illegally imported from China to New Orleans. The shipment did not contain any document identifying the manufacturer or distributor of the eyelashes. Thus, officers were unable to determine whether the product was safe and hygienic to use.

“False eyelashes and eyelash extensions require adhesives to hold them in place,” a CBP statement said about the incident. “The eyelids are delicate and an allergic reaction, irritation or other injury to the eyes can be particularly bothersome.

A month earlier, California CBP agents found nearly $ 13 million worth of counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills and fake designer products. Among the 57,607 products seized were fake Nike shoes, Louis Vuitton handbags and Gucci sunglasses.

Update 5/1/22, 4:16 p.m. ET: With comment from a CBP spokesperson to Newsweek.


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