July 20, 2010— -- Police at the Mexico City airport, who detained a man with a suspicious bulge under his T-shirt Monday, found 18 small endangered monkeys concealed under his clothing in a girdle.
Roberto Cabrera, 38, traveled to Mexico City aboard a commercial flight Friday from Lima, Peru, and was searched when he began behaving "nervously," police said in a statement.
Cabrera has been charged with trafficking of endangered species.
According to the Mexican Department of Public Safety, Cabrera told authorities that the monkeys were originally hidden in a suitcase, but transferred them to the girdle "so the X-rays wouldn't hurt them."
Each of the 6-inch monkeys were hidden in small sacks and suspended from the girdle. Two of the animals were dead when authorities found them.
Cabrera said he purchased the monkeys for $30 apiece. According to experts titi monkeys can sell for as much as $1,000 on the illegal wildlife market.
Many species of titi, a small furry monkey often captured for the pet trade, are considered endangered under international law.
According to TRAFFIC, the international wildlife trade monitoring organization, some 22,346 animals and wildlife products were seized by authorities in Mexico in 2009. Mexico City has a booming illegal wildlife trade, much of it focused at the Sonora and Xochimilco markets.
Last year, an American woman was convicted for smuggling a rhesus macaque from Thailand to Spokane, Washington.
Gypsy Lawson, 28, pretended to be pregnant in order to smuggle the monkey into the U.S. She received 60 days in jail.