Conflict & Justice

Tiny squirrel monkeys jailed after luxury life


These little guys are from Bolivia, but they look like their Mexican cousins, who are currently hanging out in the Zacango Zoo.


Ben Stansall

Animals that once lived in luxury as the pets of drug cartel kings are ending up on the other side of the tracks. 

According to this Associated Press story, Mexican zoos have been overwhelmed by the quantities of lions, tigers, elephants — and yes, tiny squirrel monkeys — that the government confiscates from raids on the homes of suspected drug bosses.

Apparently these guys are really into exotic animals. 

For example, Jesus "The King" Zambada, a former head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, lived on a sprawling luxury ranch before his arrest. He had lots of assault rifles and cocaine, of course, in his house, police said. But he also kept three tiny squirrel monkeys, as well as peacocks and ostriches. Per the AP:

For years, three tiny squirrel monkeys led a life of luxury on a 16-acre ranch surrounded by extravagant gardens and barns built for purebred horses.

And now what has become of them? 

Like Zambada, who was apprehended in October 2008, the squirrel monkeys sit in state custody, chirping away at gawking children at the Zacango Zoo, about an hour outside Mexico City.

It's not all bad news, though: 

Their previous home "was a very big enclosure made of good quality material," said Manlio Nucamendi, the zoo's coordinator. "But they didn't have the right diet and medical attention."

As much as they might like having the animals around, cartel bosses don't usually take very good care of them, Nucamendi said. They can be de-clawed, de-fanged and kept in small cages, without the proper food or exercise. Like Diego, an 8-month-old lion cub whose owners didn't feed him right. 

Cartel bosses also allegedly sometimes feed their victims to the animals, or smuggle drugs inside them. Cruel.

Nucamendi said the squirrel monkeys and the other animals are better off in the zoo. He said: 

 "We offer our bodies and souls for the welfare of these animals."