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Rescued Monkey from Laredo Car Accident Thrives in Sanctuary

LAREDO, Texas (KGNS) – A conservation non-profit organization based in Laredo has welcomed a monkey named Pablito into their care after he was struck by a car in February 2024. The organization is advocating for the implementation of new legislation to discourage the keeping of monkeys as pets.

Dr. Liz Tyson-Griffin, the director of Born Free’s Sanctuary, shed light on Pablito’s rescue, revealing, “He was found by animal control roaming freely in Laredo when he was hit by a car, resulting in severe head injuries.” Pablito is currently under the supervision of Born Free’s Sanctuary, a prominent accredited sanctuary for monkeys in the United States situated between Laredo and San Antonio. The sanctuary oversees the well-being of more than 200 monkeys rescued from various sources such as the pet trade, research facilities, roadside zoos, and defunct establishments.

Over the past three years, the organization has rescued a total of 14 monkeys, with 11 of them retrieved from the illegal pet trade. Dr. Tyson-Griffin elaborated, “We suspect that Pablito was a victim of the illegal pet trade, as keeping monkeys as pets is prohibited in Laredo.”

Dr. Tyson-Griffin also highlighted the disparities in monkey ownership laws across different regions of Texas, stating, “While it is illegal in Laredo and San Antonio, individuals in other parts of the state can possess monkeys with the appropriate permits, as regulations vary among municipalities.”

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collaborates with both local and federal entities when encountering endangered and exotic wildlife species at entry points, although the manner in which Pablito entered the country remains unclear.

Carlos Ramos, an Agriculture Specialist with CBP, provided insights into the encounters with exotic animals at ports of entry. “We have encountered a variety of animals, ranging from monkeys and parrots to turtles. However, pet birds and live poultry are the most common finds,” he remarked. Ramos outlined the procedures for handling unregistered animals, explaining, “If the animals are declared, the individuals have the option to return them. Unfortunately, most of the time, they are undeclared, necessitating our intervention. In such cases, we take custody of the animals and transfer them to the appropriate regulatory agencies, such as the Fish & Wildlife Services or USDA.” He also discussed the penalties associated with illegal animal importation, which can range from \(300 to \)1000, detailing the process involved in caring for the animals.

Dr. Tyson-Griffin stressed the urgency of enacting new legislation to prohibit the private ownership of monkeys. “The trade in pet monkeys is highly profitable,” she noted, estimating that as many as 15,000 monkeys are being kept as pets in the United States.

The organization is advocating for the introduction of the Captive Primate Safety Act, which aims to ban the private ownership of monkeys as pets and their interstate trade. Drawing parallels to the Big Cat Public Safety Act popularized by the Netflix series Tiger King, Dr. Tyson-Griffin expressed optimism about achieving a similar outcome, stating, “We are hopeful that we can replicate the success we had with big cats last year by banning primates as pets.”

Regarding Pablito, Dr. Tyson-Griffin confirmed that he will reside at the sanctuary for the remainder of his life, which could span up to 30 years. She reassured, “We are committed to ensuring his social integration within a group. While we acknowledge that our efforts may not be perfect, we are dedicated to providing him with the best possible care under the circumstances.”

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