A driver crossing the US-Mexico border on the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas has been charged with illegally bringing a spider monkey along for the ride.
On Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection officers sent a passenger car back for secondary inspection because driver Ilse Georgina Herrera had an expired permanent resident card.
Ms. Herrera, a Brownsville resident, first said she drove her child to Matamoros, Mexico, just across from Brownsville for a doctor’s appointment.
When CBP officers began taking the car for secondary inspection, an unidentified human passenger wearing a blanket got out, refusing to follow CBP’s instructions. After removing the blanket, CBP officers found a bag containing the monkey.
The passenger told officers he had just purchased the monkey in Mexico for a friend as a pet. The northern limit of spider monkey populations is in southern Mexico.
Ms. Herrera had a different story for Homeland Security Investigations agents. She claimed she took the monkey to Mexico because it was he, rather than her child, who was sick and needed medicine.
Further inspection would have found messages between Ms Herrera and another person that explained how to successfully smuggle a spider monkey from Mexico into the United States.
The importation of spider monkeys into America is regulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under international law regarding protected species. As such, bringing one into the United States as a pet or for other non-regulatory purposes is illegal.
In addition to the alleged messages about smuggling, Ms Herrera is also accused of not having the necessary permits to legally import the spider monkey.
After being seized by CBP, the monkey was returned to Mexico.
Ms Herrera was charged with conspiracy to illegally import wildlife into the United States and made her first court appearance on Friday, according to local newspaper The Monitor.