Mexican officials searching a man at the airport with a bulge under his shirt identified 18 monkeys hidden beneath his clothes. Apparently, investigators became suspicious when the guy became very nervous when questioned. (I would have thought the stench associated with having 18 monkeys plastered to your body would be another tip-off.)

He was detained for possessing the 18 titi monkeys, a protected endangered species. He claimed they were pets and that he moved the animals from his suitcase to his clothes so the x-ray machines wouldn’t harm them. I suspect the fact that an x-ray screener might have flagged the image of a suitcase with 18 monkey skeletons in it as abnormal was another reason.

Anyway, that’s one more smuggler caught, but many more to go. Unfortunately, it’s probably the stupid, small volume smugglers that get caught most of the time, while the people involved with importing huge numbers of animals go unnoticed.

Why does animal smuggling need to be stopped?

  • It’s inhumane. A large percentage of animals caught for smuggling die during transit. Many of the "lucky" ones that make it to their new owners die because of illnesses acquired during transit, stress of shipping and adaptation to a new home, and inadequate care by uninformed owners.
  • It creates a risk of infectious disease importation. Smuggling is a major risk for introduction of diseases that could hurt (even devastate) animals or humans. Smuggled animals don’t go through the same degree of inspection and quarantine as legally imported animals. Smuggling may be the main risk of introduction of various infectious diseases.
  • It harms populations. Mass smuggling of endangered species can jeopardize the survival of these species in the wild.

The best way to deter smuggling is to cut down on demand. If people stop buying these animals, people will stop smuggling them because there will be no profit in it. People thinking about getting an exotic pet need to think carefully about from where the animals come. Too often, people put on blinders and conveniently forget the questionable provenance and what they are supporting in their desire to get a novel pet. At the same time, smuggling laws need to have some teeth. Huge amounts of money are made through smuggling, and the penalties need to reflect that. A slap on the wrist doesn’t do much to deter someone who’s making a lot of money and has little risk of being caught.

Image: Dusky titi monkeys (source: