Eight people have been charged with smuggling endangered monkeys through JFK airport. Two of the men arrested were wildlife officials from Cambodia.

Accused For Smuggling Macaques

The other six charged by federal prosecutors are connected to a Hong Kong-based company that supplies the monkeys to labs in Florida and Texas for research. The group is now being accused of purchasing the monkeys when they couldn’t fulfill orders from their breeding grounds.

The long-tailed macaques, also known as crab-eating macaques, have become an endangered species as of this year.  It is speculated that the macaques were being used for testing the COVID vaccines. Therefore, labs worldwide have been trying to acquire these monkeys at an alarming rate. The macaques are protected under international trade law and you need special permissions to import these animals into the United States.

One of the assailants, Masphal Kry, is the deputy director of Wildlife and Biodiversity in Cambodia who was arrested on Wednesday at New York’s JFK Airport. Kry and a director general were both heading to Panama for an international meeting to discuss the regulation of trading endangered species. Now each of the men is facing 145 years in prison.

Animals Have Rights Too

Photo Credit: Rojan Manandhar

“The macaque is already recognized as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez said in a statement. “The practice of illegally taking them from their habitat to end up in a lab is something we need to stop. Greed should never come before responsible conservation.”

Their indictment states that Vanny Resources Holdings, based out of Hong Kong, was cooperating with black market dealers who stole the macaques from national parks and facilities in Cambodia and falsely labeled them as captive bred.

“Wild populations of long-tailed macaques, as well as the health and well-being of the American public, are put at risk when these animals are removed from their natural habitat and illegally sold in the United States and elsewhere,” stated U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Assistant Director Edward Grace.