Aug 23, 2023
Customs officials find spider monkey inside wooden box that woman insisted was 'beer'
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, faces up to 20 years behind bars after she pleaded
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, faces up to 20 years behind bars after she pleaded guilty to smuggling wildlife across the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas
A woman in Texas has pleaded guilty to smuggling wildlife after she was caught trying to pass off a spider monkey as beer.
Savannah Nicole Valdez, 20, was caught trying to take the small primate from Mexico at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas.
Valdez was arrested on March 21 this year after officers spotted a box with holes inside her car that she claimed contained booze, according to US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In her attempt to avoid police sanctions, she sped off and tried to avoid capture which led to her running a traffic light. After she "nearly collided with officers and other vehicles," Valdez turned herself in on March 28.
Valdez now faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 (£216,000) fine. Valdez is due to be sentenced in January next year by US District Judge Rolando Olvera.
As the investigation into Valdez continued, adverts were found with her phone number on them that seemingly had the intention to sell the spider monkey.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent Craig Larrabee 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."
The monkey is now safe and sound in an animal shelter in central Florida and is reported to be doing well.
Spider monkeys are native to tropical rainforests in South American countries such as Bolivia as well as in Mexico to the north.
They are distinct for their long fingers and limbs they use to change from tree branches, while their name comes from their long tail known to be like the leg of a spider.
The animal is now listed among the 25 most endangered primates according to a report in 2019 by the International Primatological.
It is not clear from reports which species of the seven types of spider monkey was found in the beer box in Texas.
The exotic pet trade in the US is considered a multi-billion dollar industry and causes some to seek rewards for finding illegal pets for customers to buy.
Earlier this year, New York City man was charged and accused of hiding three Burmese pythons in his trousers and allegedly attempting to smuggle them across the US-Canada border.
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