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Monkey smuggling: Don't try this at home

Baby Rhesus Monkey We'd be lying if we said it had never occurred to us that it'd be neat to have a baby monkey around the house.

Of course, we'd never do more than think about keeping a monkey as a pet.  (First, because we know exotic pets are a big no-no, especially with so many homeless dogs and cats out there.  And second, because ABC's prime-time special "The Dark Side of the Monkey Business" really freaked us out!) 

But two Washington women went to a bizarre extreme to make their pet-monkey dreams a reality -- they tried to smuggle a baby rhesus macaque from Thailand into the U.S.  Their method?  Tranquilizing the monkey and hiding it under one woman's loose-fitting clothing to make her appear pregnant.  CNN reports:

Gypsy Lawson, 28, and her mother, Fran Ogren, 56, were convicted of smuggling and conspiracy to smuggle the monkey in violation of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws...

Authorities found journals and handwritten notes describing the mother and daughter's attempts to find a monkey small enough to smuggle back to the United States. The journal also described the pair's "acquisition of a small monkey and their experimenting with different medicines to sedate the monkey for their journey home," [U.S. Attorney James McDevitt's] office said.

Authorities also found photographs of Lawson at two airports and on an airplane in which she is wearing loose-fitting clothing and appears to be pregnant.

"The journal confirms that she and her mother smuggled the monkey into the United States by hiding it under her shirt, pretending she was pregnant in order to get past authorities," the statement from McDevitt's office said.

Lawson and Ogren are scheduled to be sentenced March 3.  They could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The monkey was taken to a sanctuary for abandoned primates.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Associated Press

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20 years for smuggling monkeys?!

That seems more than a bit excessive.

That law must've been passed by a vegan or something. 20 years? I've seen murderers get less time than that.

I don't think 20 years and a $250,000 fine is excessive at all. They violated the endangered species act for their own enjoyment. Penalties have to be stiff to make sure people don't harm species that are at risk. Aside from violating the law, they showed total disregard for the monkey's well being. How did they plan on finding veterinary care, food, etc for the monkey? Is he going to live in their house? How miserable for a creature who is used to having an entire habitat to roam at will. Finally, what happens when cute baby monkey turns into smelly, bitey, destructive, poopy, nasty monkey? I read an article where people end up amputating the monkey's fingers so he can't open cabinets,etc. and have their teeth pulled so he can't bite. Come to think of it, 20 years might not be enough.

Rhesus Macaques aren't threatend. The laws have to do with discouraging poaching in general and to prevent animals bringing diseases into the US (Macaques can transmit Hepititus). Rhesus monkeys are used commonly in research, so they're far from endgangered. They're well known for being easy to take care of for researchers.

I'm not saying Rhesus Macaques make good pets, their quite large for pet monkeys, but smaller monkeys like Capuchin or Squirrel monkeys are okay if for owners who have the time, resources, and ability to take care of an exotic pet.

I'd rather see a monkey as a pet rather than caged and used as a guinea pig in a lab.

They may not be at risk (the phrase I used) in the sense that they are rare, but it does state in the article that they women were convicted of violating the endangered species act.

Don (comment #2) - there is a logical problem with your comment. You are comparing the actual sentences that murderers have received vs. the maximum that these women could get. To compare apples to apples, you would have to compare the max that murderers can get (life in prison or death penalty) with the 20 years in this case. Once the womens' actual sentence is established, you can them compare it to sentences given to murderers.


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