Some super exotic items simply don’t make for legal souvenirs, as one traveler returning to Boston from the Democratic Republic of Congo learned.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents last month seized four dehydrated monkey bodies from the luggage of an unnamed passenger returning to Boston from the African country via Paris, France, on Delta Flight 225 on Jan. 8, an agency spokesman said Friday.
A CBP K9 named Buddey sniffed out something suspicious so the agents questioned the passenger, according to an agency statement. The passenger only said that it contained dried fish — one of the few agricultural products that border agents don’t appear to be as strict about according to agency online fact sheets.
Agents x-rayed the luggage and the claim appeared to be true, but the suspicious agents decided to open the bag anyway. Pretty soon, agents found themselves looking not just at some dried fish but the eerie sight of four desiccated, simian faces. The agency in a statement called them “mummified monkey remains.”
The monkeys are a form of “bushmeat,” the agency spokesman said, which is defined as “raw or minimally processed meat from wild animals in some areas of the world, including Africa.” The importation of bushmeat is illegal because the meat of wild animals like moneys, cane rats, antelope and others “pose a communicable disease risk.”
“The potential dangers posed by bringing bushmeat into the United States are real,” said Julio Cararvia, the area port director for CBP Boston. “Bushmeat can carry germs that can cause illness, including the Ebola virus. The work of CBP’s K9 unit and Agricultural Specialist were vital in preventing this potential danger from entering the U.S.”
CPB contacted the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, the federal agency with regulatory authority over materials that could contain communicable diseases. The CDC said that Delta Airlines must seize the luggage and return it to its last point of call in France or destroy the it all.
The four monkeys, which in their dried-out form weighed 4 kilograms, were “detained for CDC and marked for destruction,” according to an agency spokesman.
“Illicit wildlife trafficking is the fourth-largest source of finance for transnational criminal organizations, generating about $23 billion each year,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“At the core of the illegal wildlife trafficking is a rapidly expanding demand for a variety of products around the world: bushmeat; ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine; exotic pets; jewelry, trinkets, and accessories such as chess sets; furs for uses ranging from coats to traditional costumes; and trophies,” an agency fact sheet continues.