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Florida 'Monkey Whisperer' charged with trafficking protected primates

Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, of Parrish, Florida, was charged with conspiracy, trafficking and submitting false records.
Cotton-top Tamarian monkeys
Cotton-top Tamarin monkeys.Amir Cohen / Reuters file

A Florida man known as the “Monkey Whisperer” was federally charged in an alleged trafficking operation that sold primates across several states, prosecutors said.

An indictment unsealed Wednesday alleged that Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, 57, of Parrish, was the owner and operator of The Monkey Whisperer, which bred and sold wildlife, including the illegal sale of rare monkeys from 2016 to 2017.

In September 2017, Hammonds planned to illegally sell a $12,650 capuchin monkey to a buyer in California, according to the indictment. On its website, the company acknowledged that private buyers without a license are not allowed to own monkeys in the state of California.

Hammonds attempted to conceal the sale by transporting the animal to Nevada, where owning monkeys is allowed, prosecutors said. In October 2017, the animal was then delivered to California, where law enforcement officials eventually seized the monkey three months later, the indictment said.

Hammonds was also accused of selling a cotton-top tamarin — a federally protected small primate species — to buyers in Wisconsin, Alabama and South Carolina from March 2016 to October 2017, according to the indictment.

Hammonds is also accused of falsifying records to conceal his animal sales. In August 2020, he allegedly tried to persuade one buyer to lie to law enforcement officials and say she bought the cotton-top tamarin from a flea market, the indictment said.

Hammonds was charged with conspiracy, trafficking and submitting a false record in violation of the Lacey Act, a federal law restricting wildlife trade, according to the indictment. Among his other charges were witness tampering and violating the Endangered Species Act.

Hammonds did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. It was unclear whether Hammonds had a lawyer.

Capuchin monkeys are small primates that mark their territories and “soak their hands and feet in urine to leave a scent,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The primate has even caught the attention of singer Chris Brown, who incriminated himself when he shared a video on Instagram of his 3-year-old daughter cuddling with the animal in December 2017, the Associated Press reported.

According to the news outlet, in December 2019, a Los Angeles judge ordered Brown to stop his monkey business, including permanently giving up the rights to his former pet monkey, paying for its care and not buying a new one.