On any given day, officers with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection confiscate prohibited goods. They can run into all kinds of “monkey business,” ranging from drugs and alcohol to firearms, prohibited food, and even plants.
But what happens when officials uncover an actual monkey?
On June 25, 2020, during a routine check for prohibited items, U.S. Customs officers were surprised to find a wide-eyed baby monkey hiding in the console of a Ford F-150. The driver, a 23-year-old Texas resident, had allegedly tried to smuggle the tiny primate into the United States.
Port Director Carlos Rodriguez, Port of Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzaludas, says it isn’t all that unheard of to locate small animals during such inspections.
“Finding this monkey is certainly unusual but not a first for our officers at Hidalgo,” he said in a press statement. “Our officers normally discover prohibited agriculture products, merchandise, currency, weapons and narcotics but on occasion they encounter people attempting to smuggle exotic animals as well.”
After using great care to remove the infant animal from the vehicle, officials contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), who determined the baby was, in fact, a spider monkey. The species (ateles) is considered endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
It quickly became apparent that the baby monkey could not be released into the wild and would need to be cared for. So, USFWS took custody of the tiny animal, quarantining the infant in the Dallas Zoo before having it transported to the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne, Florida.
Dr. Darby Proctor, assistant professor at Florida Tech and resident expert in primate cognition and behavior, has been appointed to the monkey’s animal care staff. He will work closely with the baby monkey to ensure healthy development and growth.
The monkey is now settled in its new home, and officials are hopeful the tiny adventurer will have plenty of time for more “monkey business” with his new tribe at the Brevard Zoo.
Zoo officials told ABC that due to his “extremely young age,” they’re confident the tiniest member of the Brevard Primates Exhibit will acclimate just fine.
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