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Animal broker charged in deaths of 15 monkeys

September 8, 2011 |  2:43 pm

The monkeys were kept in these boxes. Click for more photos.

Two men, including a Florida animal broker, have been charged by L.A. city prosecutors with multiple counts of animal cruelty after more than a dozen monkeys died being while shipped from South America to Asia via Los Angeles International Airport.

Robert Matson Conyers, 44, and Akhtar Hussain, whose age was not available, each face 10 counts of animal cruelty, said John Franklin, spokesman for City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. If convicted on all counts, each could face up to five years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Photos: Shipping containers

Conyers made a court appearance Wednesday in lieu of arrest and extradition from Florida, said Deputy City Atty. Don Cocek. He is due back in a court in Van Nuys Oct. 6. Hussain, who is believed to be in Guyana, has a warrant out for his arrest. 

"It wasn't illegal for Conyers and Hussain to ship these animals," Cocek said. "But the conditions inside of the shipping containers was horrendous and criminal. Of the 25 monkeys that were shipped, only nine survived the ordeal."

According to prosecutors, Hussain sold the primates to a buyer in Thailand in February 2008 and hired  Conyers to ship them from Guyana to Bangkok, Thailand, via Miami, Los Angeles and China.

The primates -- including 14 marmosets, five white-fronted capuchins, and six squirrel monkeys, were denied entry in China because of shipping document irregularities and ordered sent back to LAX. During the journey, 15 of the monkeys died due to what prosecutors described as a "lack of care, starvation and hypothermia."

There was also evidence that the situation was so bad in the wooden shipping crates that live animals ate the dead ones just to survive, Cocek said.

When the animals were returned to Los Angeles, Los Angeles Zoo veterinarians gave emergency medical treatment to nine survivors, Franklin said. A capuchin monkey that survived had to be euthanized.

The other animals were then taken to the San Diego Wild Animal Park for treatment and care and have remained there throughout their recovery.


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Photo: The monkeys were kept in these boxes. Credit: L.A. city attorney