Baboons escape Texas biomedical research facility

Chicago (AFP) –


Three baboons escaped a Texas biomedical research facility over the weekend, getting a brief taste of freedom from a life as subjects of medical experiments.

The animals were among 1,100 baboons at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, which uses primates to study chronic and infectious diseases like Ebola, malaria and HIV.

The escapees were housed in an open-air enclosure surrounded by perimeter walls that fold inward to prevent the animals from jumping out.

The walls were no match, though, for the clever baboons.

They took a 55-gallon barrel -- placed in the corral as an "enrichment tool" -- and propped it up near the perimeter wall, the institute said.

One after another, baboons climbed on top and jumped over the fence.

"It's a typical 'monkey see, monkey do,' and the others follow," the facility's attending veterinarian John Bernal told KSAT television news.

A fourth baboon also scaled the wall, but had second thoughts and returned to the enclosure.

The other three made a run for freedom.

Two were cornered in nearby trees. The third managed to make it to a major road, where one driver captured smartphone video of wranglers chasing after the sprinting baboon.

The animals were captured within 30 minutes of their escape, the company said, insisting the public was never in danger, because the animals were not part of an active study.

"The animals themselves were not diseased," Bernal said.

Animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) strongly criticized the company, saying it has had multiple incidents of animal escapes and accidental deaths in recent years.

"Texas Biomed puts everyone at risk -- its staff, the public, and the 2,900 nonhuman primates it holds captive -- by imprisoning animals whose one desire is to get away from the nightmare of the laboratory," PETA said in a statement.