It sounds like the plotline of a ‘Rise of the Apes’ movie, but sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Last Saturday, four baboons closely cooperated to escape from a biomedical testing facility in Texas. The monkeys didn’t stay out for long before staff captured them, but their brave gesture has inspired thousands of people over social media.
A squad of baboons used a 55-gallon blue barrel to break free by aptly maneuvering it upright on the wall of their housing enclosure. The Old World monkeys then proceeded to climb on top of the barrel and over the wall, eventually breaching the fenced perimeter of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio and the Southwest National Primate Research Center.
Such barrels are filled with grains and typically used in facilities all over the country as enrichment tools that mimic foraging behaviors. Similar barrels can be seen in this video released by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
Three of the four baboons managed to temporarily stay outside for 20 to 30 minutes before the facility’s animal capture staff caught up with them — right under the eyes of a bystander who filmed the whole thing. The fourth baboon returned to his pen by his own.
Four baboons escaped their enclosure at a San Antonio biomedical research facility Saturday. A woman then spotted one leading researchers on a wild foot chase down a Texas highway.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2018
Nearly 2,500 animals — 1,100 of which are baboons — are housed at the research facility in Texas. Researchers test all sorts of drugs and substances on the animals for studies on obesity, heart disease, and insulin resistance, among others.The escapees were inside an open-air enclosure, part of a group of 133 male baboons not currently being used for any tests. The walls of this enclosure are rolled inward as to prevent the monkeys from escaping but, apparently, it was no match for the ingenuity of a four-monkey team.
A lot of people on social media were moved by the news, with many wishing that the baboons were removed from captivity ‘having earned this right.’ Many people have suggested that the animals be transferred to a sanctuary.
This is heartbreaking. 4 baboons worked together to roll a 55 gallon barrel and escape the research facility where they were subject to horrifying medical experiments. They earned their freedom. Let them go to a sanctuary. Some animals are too sentient to be subjected to this. https://t.co/pWiykNdAW8
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018
Since 2011, the Texas research facility has been involved in several animal welfare-related incidents, including the case of a baboon that died in 2013 from wound-induced septicemia. In a 2015 incident at the same facility, an infant animal was killed by a male baboon who shouldn’t have been allowed by the staff to gain access to the mother baboon and her baby. The facility has been fined for both incidents.