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Man arrested in France over theft of endangered monkeys

By Agence France-Presse Published Feb 03, 2024 9:37 am

A man was brought before a judge in southern French city Marseille Friday, Feb. 2 on suspicion of stealing 14 endangered squirrel monkeys from a zoo, judicial sources said.

Unknown individuals broke into the tropical zoo in La Londe-les-Maures, around 70 kilometers (43 miles) east of Marseille, on the night of Jan. 26-27, removing 14 monkeys belonging to the Saimiri genus.

Also known as squirrel monkeys, the animals originating from Central and South America are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered species.

They can fetch several thousand euros each on the black market.

One person was arrested in Marseille, where three of the monkeys were also retrieved, the senior prosecutor in Mediterranean city Toulon Samuel Finielz said.

Police said they found one of the monkeys in the basement of the apartment building in Marseille's south where the suspect lives.

Two more, a mother and its child, were left outside the home of a member of the public, who called the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA).

The monkeys were all born in the zoo and had been fitted with identifying chips.

Finielz said that the 20-year-old suspect, "whose vehicle was seen near the scene of the crime," denied any involvement.

He was held for 48 hours and sent before an investigating magistrate.

Prosecutors requested charges of theft and holding and transporting a protected species as part of an organised gang.

The maximum sentence is seven years' jail.

"It seems clear there were several people aboard the vehicle, and this theft required planning ahead," Finielz said.

Prosecutors have asked that the suspect be held in custody to prevent him destroying evidence and contacting his possible accomplices, he added.

Anyone with knowledge of the 11 remaining monkeys is invited to contact police, as "their life expectancy without appropriate care is very limited." (AFP)