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Animal cruelty trial involving monkeys continues today

March 27, 2012 |  6:55 am

MonkeysA Florida man was due back in court Tuesday in an animal cruelty case involving 15 primates that died while being shipped from South America to Asia through Los Angeles International Airport.

Robert Matson Conyers faces multiple counts of animal cruelty in L.A. County Superior Court. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six months in jail and a $20,000 fine.

According to prosecutors, another man sold the primates to a buyer in Thailand in February 2008 and hired Conyers to ship them.

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."

When the animals were returned to Los Angeles, Los Angeles Zoo veterinarians gave emergency medical treatment to the survivors.

The other animals were then taken to the San Diego Wild Animal Park for treatment and care.

During the first day of trial Monday, jurors saw photos of the monkeys in crates and heard opening statements.

Deputy City Atty. Don Cocek detailed the monkeys' disastrous trip around the world and told jurors Conyers was responsible, according to the Associated Press. Conyers' attorney, John Murray, countered that his client wasn't to blame for the problems that occurred during the journey.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Elvin Mong testified that he inspected the four crates of monkeys when they were in Miami and took photos of the primates, the Associated Press reported. One was dead and Mong started trying to get it removed.

But before he could, the monkeys were already on their way to Los Angeles.


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Photo: Capuchin monkeys at the Santa Ana Zoo. Credit: Santa Ana Zoo