Did you know — each year, nearly 20 million animals die for research. Recently, a group of intelligent baboons hijacked their captors’ own barrels to escape from a Biolab in Texas. Though their freedom was short-lived, they managed to enjoy the outdoors for about 30 minutes.
As Gizmodo reports, the baboons are housed at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI). The facility holds about 2,500 animals, including 1,100 baboons. The monkeys are primarily experimented on to test vaccines and drug therapies.
The baboons are housed in a large, open pen that is filled with “enrichment tools,” such as climbing structures, concrete tubes and, until last week, a 55-gallon barrel. Before it was removed from the enclosure, the barrel was filled with grains so the animals could roll it around and shake out food.
Because the pen has inward-leaning walls, no animal has escaped from the facility in 35 years. Last week, that all changed. One smart-thinking monkey decided to turn the barrel upright, enabling it to reach the top of the wall. It was only a matter of time before three other monkeys followed in its footsteps (monkey-see, monkey-do, after all).
After the four baboons scaled the wall, one chose to return to captivity. The rest were captured by members of the animal care and animal capture team, who wore protective suits and masks. Bystanders were concerned that the monkeys were carrying infectious diseases, but a news release from TBRI allayed all fears.
According to TBRI Assistant Vice President for Communications, Lisa Cruz, the baboons who escaped were not being used for a study. She said, “They are very smart animals. The baboons in the corral are in holding and are typically used for breeding or they’re holding until we know what type of study they may be used for.”
Cruz said the barrel was introduced to the enclosure six to eight months ago to enrich the lives of the monkeys. “They were actually very useful enrichment items,” said Cruz. “We really don’t know how it got stood up, but somehow it got stood up and it happened to be in just the right spot close enough to the wall of the enclosure that the baboon was able to jump on top and then jump out. It’s their natural inclination to to get to the next highest spot to climb.”
Though the tool has since been removed, the monkeys still have some climbing structures in their enclosure. The video below shows what the baboon pen looks like:
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