Mummified Monkey Remains Confiscated at Boston Airport

An airline passenger traveling from Africa to the United States was stopped at an airport in Boston with somewhat unusual items included in his luggage: the mummified remains of four African monkeys, a rare illegal delicacy known as “bushmeat.”
Confiscated remains of mummified monkeys. Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The dehydrated and mummified remains of four monkeys were confiscated by airport security in Boston last month.

According to a press release from United States Customs and Border Protection, a traveler arrived at Boston Logan Airport from The Democratic Republic of the Congo on January 8 of this year. An Airport security dog that goes by the name of K9 Buddey (pictured below) smelled something unusual in the traveler’s bag during routine inspections of Delta flight 225 incoming from Paris and alerted customs officials to the suspicious nature of the luggage, presumably by barking.

K9 Buddey. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The traveler claimed he was only carrying dried fish in his suitcase when asked by customs, but further inspection revealed he was in possession of four dehydrated monkey carcusses. The monkeys are considered to be “bushmeat,” which is a term denoting raw or minimally processed meat from wild animals in Africa often dried, salted or smoked. This includes bats, monkeys, cane rats, antelope and other African animals, none of which are allowed entry into the United States on account of the risk of communicable disease transference.

“The potential dangers posed by bringing bushmeat into the United States are real. Bushmeat can carry germs that can cause illness, including the Ebola virus,” said Julio Caravia, local port director for Customs and Border Protection.

According to Customs and Border Protection, airport authorities immediately contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because apparently that’s the government agency tasked with regulation of mummified primate materials. The CDC reportedly told Delta Airlines to either seize and destroy the four kilograms of monkey meat or return it to France and thus, the primate mummies were marked for destruction.

Apparently a fair amount of illegal monkey meat, among other unsavory and illicit meat from Africa is routinely smuggled into the United States. One estimate from the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance proposed that roughly 15,000 pounds of illegal wildlife meat are smuggled into the U.S. every month, though this figure is very difficult to verify. 

Another report from United States Customs and Border Protection concerning illegal bushmeat smuggling into the state of Minnesota from 2022, customs officials seized over 104 pounds of bushmeat in the last week of 2021 alone.

“Just last week our agriculture specialists stopped a passenger returning from Liberia,” said Augustine Moore, Area Port Director-Minnesota. When officers asked if he had any bushmeat, he said he had “parts of a monkey; turned out it was two primate arms and primate rib material.”

In the 2022 release Customs and Border Protections attested that much like the recent mummified monkey smuggler accosted in Boston, many travelers attempting to smuggle bushmeat into the United States do so by hiding it amongst dried fish, often wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper, plastic, foil and tape. Travelers would often mark fish on customs forms even when specifically asked about bushmeat.

“The intermingling of fish and bushmeat in the same package is common,” Chief Agriculture Specialist Lauren Lewis said in 2022. 

Customs said in the same release that they had a big problem at the time with travelers coming in with bushmeat from Liberia specifically. A private investigator took reporters from ABC news to an open air market in New York in 2009 where cane rat meat was being sold for $20/pound, but with time passed and post-COVID inflation it presumably costs much more in 2024 though I could was not able to verify current bushmeat prices with any reputable source.

“Minnesota’s CBP agriculture specialists are focused on their mission to prevent entry of prohibited items from entering into the United States,” said LaFonda D. Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Operations-Chicago in 2022. “The sheer volume of bushmeat our specialist[s] intercept clearly shows how they play a critical role in preventing diseases from entering the United States.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts