A pick-up truck transporting 100 labratory monkeys collided with a dump truck in Pennsylvania on Friday, January 21, reports Michael Levenson for the New York Times. A total of four monkeys escaped from the wreckage after the dump truck tore off the front panel of the trailer and sent about a dozen crates tumbling out. The drivers were unharmed, and one passenger was transported to a hospital for possible minor injuries. All of the animal escapees were found and accounted for by late Saturday, reports the Associated Press.
Pennsylvania State Police first responded to the crash about 150 miles northwest of Philadelphia. After the monkeys escaped, state troopers and state wildlife officials launched a search effort that included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health officials. Helicopters aided in the search, and local firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to locate the monkeys, per AP.
Soon after the crash, police posted a statement to Twitter to warn locals not to look for or attempt to capture any of the animals and instead call 911 immediately. State Trooper Lauren Lesher told the Associated Press that the statement was released because the monkeys were not domesticated and loose in an unknown area.
Crash update: A small number of monkeys may have fled the crash scene into the surrounding area. If the public spots one, please keep your distance and call 911 immediately. Health and safety of residents and visitors is our top priority.— Troopers Andrea Pelachick & Lauren Lesher (@PSPTroopFPIO) January 22, 2022
Called long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), the monkeys have reddish-brown fur and can live up to 30 years in captivity, reports the New York Times. The monkeys in the accident were on their way to a CDC-approved quarantine facility after arriving at New York’s Kennedy Airport from Mauritius, an island nation located off the eastern coast of Africa near Madagascar, per AP.
According to the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, these monkeys are often used for medical studies because their human-like neurological, reproductive, and immunological systems. The primates can cost up to $10,000 each. However, the type of research the monkeys were going to be used for was unclear. These types of monkeys are currently in high demand for coronavirus vaccine research, per the New York Times.
A few eyewitnesses pulled over to help those involved in the accident, including Michelle Fallon, who stopped to help the truck driver. Initially, she thought the distressed animals were cats and placed her hand on one of the cages when one of the monkeys hissed at her, reports Graig Graziosi for the Independent.
Soon after her contact with the animals, Fallon developed pink eye and a cough. She has since received treatment, and CDC health officials have told her in a letter to watch for symptoms and notify the Pennsylvania State Department of Health if she becomes ill, reports Michael Tanenbaum for the Philly Voice.
In an email to AP, CDC spokesperson Kristen Norlund said the three escaped monkeys were euthanized by gunshot but did not explain why. The remaining monkeys will be monitored and quarantined for 31 days before their release, per the Philly Voice.
PennLive's John Beauge reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture will "look into" the accident after receiving a request for an investigation from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).