If you happen to be camping near the Texas-Louisiana border and come across an RV packed with four tiny Capuchin monkeys, do not be alarmed. It's likely just Jim and Donita Clark, a couple from DeRidder, La., on the lam from Louisiana authorities who may want to take away their "children."
New Orleans-based AP correspondent Cain Burdeau has the scoop:
Four months ago, the couple fled before authorities showed up at their house for an inspection, and ever since they've been hiding out with their monkeys — all of them cooped up in the recreational vehicle. ... Hands gripping the cage bars, a couple of the hyper, super-inquisitive furry creatures — capable of lightning-fast vertical leaps — barely moved and cooed softly. The motorhome is a far cry from the DeRidder house that boasts two monkey playrooms and a large outdoor enclosure.
“It's not what I fought for … to be treated like this,” a teary Jim Clark, who is a disabled Vietnam veteran, told Burdeau. “It's not right to think they can come into your house and do this to you with or without a warrant.”
Authorities across the country have been turning a wary eye to exotic animal owners in the wake of the Zionsville, Ohio, incident last year when a man released his big cats and bears before killing himself. The Louisiana Legislature banned people from keeping exotic animals as pets in 2003, but allowed those who already had them to be grandfathered in.
"Their exile is hard on them and the monkeys," Burdeau wrote. The monkeys have been cooped up and have not been outside in the sun since October. The Clarks have pledged not to return home until their monkeys' futures are secure.
Texas, about 23 miles from DeRidder, has more permissive exotic animal laws than its eastern neighbor, though local counties are able to institute their own wild animal bans.
(Capuchins last made news in Texas over the summer, when a troop of the small monkeys were let out of their enclosures when a wildfire approached the Waller County animal sanctuary they called home. After a state game warden attempted to lure one of the monkeys with candy, it bit her, the Houston Chronicle reported. A sheriff's deputy later shot and killed that monkey.)
VIDEO from inside the Clark's RV: