A particularly mischievous troop of baboons masterfully escaped from a Texas biomedical research facility with the help of a 55-gallon barrel over the weekend, running free for nearly 30 minutes before being captured.
They don’t call it monkey business without reason. According to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI), the primates rolled the barrel – which is normally used as an “enrichment tool” that mimics foraging in the wild – upright and then scaled the fence in an escape that the A-Team would have been proud of. The baboons are housed in an open-air enclosure surrounded by perimeter walls that fold inward and, for the last 35 years, have kept animals from escaping.
A bemused bystander caught on video one of three baboons running along down a relatively empty street, save for the researchers pelting after it trying to catch it.
Of course, creatures escaping research labs is the premise of several apocalyptic horror flicks...
The April 14 escape did prompt local concern over whether the baboons had an infectious disease, but officials at the Southwest National Primate Research Center (which is part of TBRI) quickly squashed the rumor. The four escapees were not part of an active study, with only a small portion of the nearly 1,100 baboons on the property serving in research “critical to biomedical research” in chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Nevertheless, officials say the animal team donned protective equipment “for the safety of the animals as they are susceptible to human illnesses”.
“The animal care team held two of the three baboons to the tree line, while members of the animal capture team followed one baboon along the street and used verbal and hand signaling commands to corral the baboon to the tree line for its safety and efficient capture,” explained veterinarian John Bernal in a press release. “Our team was ensuring the baboon was not hurt by traffic on Military Drive.”
TBRI says the “truly unique incident” highlights the critical role animal caretakers play. "Our animal capture team and the entire animal care team acted diligently and followed protocol to locate, secure and account for the baboons," said Bernal.
With opposable thumbs and inquisitive eyes, it’s hard to deny the similarities between baboons and their human cousins. Research has shown they understand the concept of numbers and have the ability to build up knowledge over generations – a skill that has led humans to develop technology and language.
It’s unclear how high the walls of the enclosure are (you can take a peak here). Still, this group of hooligans deserve some serious kudos for their shenanigans.