A couple who were arrested on suspicion of taking protected monkeys and keeping them as pets may be handed a five-year prison term. The man and woman are charged with illegally hunting nationally-protected animals.
The two admitted to taking a pair of macaques from Shanghai's Sheshan National Forest Park in August, local media reports said on Sunday (29 October).
The two were stopped at a routine checkpoint near Shanghai on 20 October while they were driving along a section of the Shenyang-Haikou Expressway, the South China Morning Post reported.
Traffic officers said they discovered the woman seated in the passenger's seat cradling a young macaque in her arms. When she was taken into the inspection room, the police found that she had another monkey hidden under her clothes.
Initially she claimed that the primates were her pets, but after requesting the couple to produce paperwork for the exotic animals, they confessed.
The two monkeys who were dressed in pet clothes, were later confirmed to be Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) — a monkey species protected by the Chinese government.
Anyone found guilty of catching or killing protected animals in China can be sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison besides being fined, Global Times news website reported.
Rhesus macaques can be found in large numbers in Nanwan Monkey Island, lingshui county, Hainan. It is a state-protected nature reserve for macaque monkeys on the south coast of Hainan,
Since the nature reserve was established in 1965, the reserve has become a popular tourist destination. It is now home to approximately 2,000 monkeys. The reserve, totalling 1,000 hectares, is China's largest area for raising and training monkeys.
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