Woman arrested after smuggling endangered spider monkey in box she said held beer
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A woman has pleaded guilty after being arrested for smuggling an endangered monkey and trying to sell it.
20-year-old Savannah Nicole Valdez of Texas was arrested after attempting to enter the US with the spider monkey accompanying her in a wooden box on 21 March.
After the endangered animal was discovered, she was referred to undergo a secondary inspection, but drove away from officers instead.
According to a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), later that day officers found posts online attempting to sell the monkey with Valdez's phone number listed as a point of contact.
A week after speeding away from officers at the border, Valdez turned herself over to the law, admitting to importing the monkey without declaring it and intentionally fleeing from law enforcement.
And if you're wondering what happened to the spider monkey, it was fortunately recovered and sent to an animal shelter in Florida where it won't get sold off online.
Having pleaded guilty to authorities, Valdez will be sentenced by US district judge Rolando Olvera on 25 January, 2023.
For illegal smuggling and evasion of law enforcement, Valdez faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years behind bars and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge at HSI San Antonio slammed the practice of smuggling endangered species across borders.
He said: "Smuggling in endangered species for commercial gain is a tragic crime against nature's precious resources.
"HSI takes every opportunity to join our federal, private sector and international partners to share our knowledge, experience and investigative techniques designed to protect and preserve threatened and endangered species."
There are actually seven different species of spider monkey, with the one recovered by authorities having not been confirmed, and they are all considered to be endangered and under threat.
Due to their large size, they are considered a food source by some communities which hunt them, while the destruction of their habitat also threatens their survival.
They prefer to live in large, undisturbed rainforests where they can feed on fruits growing nearby and they are considered the smartest type of monkeys which inhabit Central and South America.
Spider monkeys like to live together in groups, but will split off into smaller foraging bands when going out to look for food.