By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two men were charged with animal cruelty after 15 monkeys they were shipping from Guyana to Thailand were found dead at Los Angeles International Airport, prosecutors said on Thursday.
Florida-based wild animal broker Robert Matson Conyers, 44, and Akhtar Hussain, a Guyana supplier, have each been charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty, Los Angeles City Attorney's spokesman Frank Mateljan said.
Conyers appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Mateljan said, while Hussain remains and large and was thought to be in Guyana, in South America. Each man faces up to six months in jail and a $20,000 fine if convicted.
Mateljan said Hussain sold around two dozen primates to a buyer in Bangkok in February of 2008 and hired Conyers to deliver them.
Conyers attempted to ship 14 Marmosets, five white-fronted Capuchins and six Squirrel Monkeys from Guyana to Bangkok through Miami, Los Angeles and then China, but the animals were refused transit in China because of an irregularity with shipping documents, Mateljan said.
Fourteen of the monkeys died of neglect, starvation and hypothermia in transit back to Los Angeles, he said, and another had to be euthanized. The surviving animals were taken to the San Diego Wild Animal Park for further care.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ultimately handed over to Los Angeles prosecutors.
"When you get to the point where there are dead animals and they've been in the plane for several hours, it gets to be a problem that we felt needed to be taken seriously," Mateljan said. "This is definitely neglect and improper planning."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)