Cambodian wildlife official jailed in New York for monkey trafficking


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MIAMI (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged eight people with smuggling endangered apes, including a Cambodian wildlife official who was arrested in the United States on his way to a species protection conference threatened.

Long-tailed macaques, sometimes known as crab-eating macaques, are protected by international trade law and special permits are required to import the animals into the United States.

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Prosecutors said two Cambodian officials and six people linked to the Hong Kong-based Vanny Group, which breeds monkeys for scientific and academic research, arranged to supply captive-bred macaques to labs in Florida and Texas. , but they conspired to illegally buy wild macaques. to make up for the lack of supplies for their farms.

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Masphal Kry, deputy director of wildlife and biodiversity at Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was arrested at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday. Kry, 46, was traveling to Panama to attend an international meeting on regulating trade in endangered species, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Omaliss Keo, 58, director general of the Southeast Asian country’s forestry administration, is also charged in the indictment on eight counts, along with Vanny’s six employees. Officials did not say if anyone other than Kry was arrested. They each face up to 145 years in prison.

« The macaque is already recognized as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, » U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez said in a statement. “The practice of illegally removing them from their habitat and ending up in a lab is something we need to stop. Greed should never come before responsible conservation.

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According to the indictment, the founder and owner of Vanny Resources Holdings, James Man Sang Lau, 64, and the managing director of Vanny Resources Holdings, Dickson Lau, 29, operating from Hong Kong, owned and managed several companies. who conspired with collectors and black market officials in Cambodia to acquire wild macaques and export them to the United States, falsely labeled as captive-bred.

The macaques were taken from national parks and other protected areas in Cambodia to breeding facilities where they were given fake export permits, officials said. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials received cash payments of $220 each in exchange for a collection quota of 3,000 « unofficial » monkeys.

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“Wild populations of long-tailed macaques, as well as the health and well-being of the American public, are put at risk when these animals are removed from their natural habitat and sold illegally in the United States and elsewhere,” US Fish and Edward Grace, deputy director of the Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, said.

The conference in Panama, bringing together delegates from 184 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, includes an event on Nov. 23 on threats to the very species about which Cambodian officials are accused of trafficking.

The long-tailed macaque is the most traded primate in the CITES database, almost exclusively for laboratory research. According to the CITES Trade Database, over 600,000 were exported and reported born or bred in captivity from 2011 to 2020. Nearly 165,000 live specimens were exported in 2020 alone.



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