Eight individuals have been charged with smuggling rare monkeys by federal authorities, including a Cambodian wildlife official who was seized in the United States while traveling to a conference on conserving endangered animals.
This officer, together with a colleague from the country’s wildlife agency and six individuals associated with a Hong Kong-based corporation, were involved in raising long-tailed macaques for scientific and academic study and supplying them to laboratories in Florida and Texas. However, the gang is suspected of unlawfully obtaining macaques from the wild when its breeding operations ran out.
The importation of long-tailed macaques, sometimes known as crab-eating macaques, into the United States requires special licenses under international commerce law.
Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, the deputy director of Wildlife and Biodiversity for Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries was arrested.
Under the condition of anonymity, a U.S. official said that 46-year-old Kry was headed to Panama to attend an international seminar on regulating the trafficking in endangered species.
In addition to the six Vanny Resources Holdings workers, the eight-count indictment charges Omaliss Keo, 58, the director general of the Forestry Administration of a Southeast Asian country. Officials did not indicate whether anyone other than Kry had been arrested. Each individual faces up to 145 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida: “The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has already listed the macaque as an endangered species.” Juan Antonio Gonzalez said in a statement. “We must eliminate the practice of illegally removing them from their natural home and placing them in a laboratory. Greed should never come before conservation efforts.”
According to the indictment, Vanny founder and owner James Man Sang Lau, 64, and Vanny general manager Dickson Lau, 29, both based in Hong Kong, owned and managed multiple corporations that conspired with black market collectors and officials in Cambodia to acquire wild macaques and export them to the United States while falsely labeling them as captive bred.
Officials reported that the macaques were transferred from national parks and other protected places in Cambodia to breeding facilities, where they were issued fraudulent export permits. Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries got $220 in exchange for a collection quota of 3,000 “unofficial” monkeys.
Edward Grace, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, stated, “Wild populations of long-tailed macaques, as well as the health and well-being of the American public, are at risk when these animals are removed from their natural habitat and illegally sold in the United States and elsewhere.”
On November 23, delegates from 184 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will gather for a conference in Panama to discuss dangers to the species that Cambodian authorities are suspected of trafficking.
The long-tailed macaque is the monkey most frequently traded according to the CITES database, virtually solely for laboratory research. According to the CITES Trade Database, more than 600,000 animals born or raised in captivity were exported between 2011 and 2020. In 2020 alone, about 165,000 living specimens were transported.