Wednesday 8 August 2007

Mile-high monkey takes hat seat

Fist full of monkey

One would hope that this was not for real, but the incredible is now par for the course, it really has to be astonishingly miraculous to be surprising nowadays - it is impossible to shock anyone such that ones jaw dropping to the floor can be termed a rebellious response to conserving energy and body heat.

In this age of the war against terrorism and the paralysing paranoia of running the gauntlet of airport security one would think this was a science fiction dream.

Somehow, a man travelled from Lima, Peru to LaGuardia airport in New York with a few hours stopover in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his monkey (marmoset) pet under his hat without detection, till the animal came out for a breather during the second leg of his journey within the United States.

It would appear there was a time someone thought the swishing tail of the monkey was the man's ponytail.

Scanning voids

So much for security checks, X-Ray scanning and checked baggage, if a man could successfully go through customs checks without once having to doff his hat - it is no doubt a daring thing to do and no matter that charges are filed against the man, there was a complete lapse in checks at Peru and within the United States.

Supposedly, he was a passenger in transit in Florida and hence might not have had to go through stringent checks reserved for those entering the travel circuit from Florida, it is still amazing that no one noticed on the flight from Peru which would have been a good few hours.

A vector for terror

The greater concern however is the possibility that if this animal were a vector for some pathogenic organism, the conditions in a depressurised cabin for the hours of flight might have had the passengers in such danger graver than could be imagined - the Ebola virus or some simian-borne agent that could be so contagious and transmissible.

Seeking commonsense and comfort

Before we get ahead of ourselves, the monkey has now been handed over to the New York animal control officials and the man arrested. There is the plan to keep the monkey in quarantine for a month, but what if, the people on that flight had picked up something for which they should be in quarantine rather that walking the streets incubating secondary vectors of a disease?

Commonsense should prevail in this case, but the more serious matter here is that checks did not discover this possible terrorism opportunism and the consequences that could be too scary to narrate. Roamland Insecurity rules.

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