Several missing lab monkeys have been recovered after escaping from a truck following a crash on a Pennsylvania Highway.
According to authorities, the truck was transporting 100 long-tailed macaque monkeys to a laboratory when it collided with a dump truck on the State Route 54 highway near Danville in Montour County, Pennsylvania. However, not all of the monkeys were accounted for following the crash.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, four of the research monkeys had scrambled up into the trees of the nearby forest.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Andrea Pelachick posted about the incident on Twitter, notifying the public that three monkeys had gone missing following the crash and warning them to keep their distance.
“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 9-1-1 immediately. Health and safety of residents and visitors is our top priority,” the tweet read.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and several law enforcement agencies, with assistance from the CDC, immediately launched a search in the freezing cold temperature for the missing macaques, which appears to have been successful.
By the morning following the crash, three of the monkeys had been recovered, and later that evening the fourth monkey was finally recaptured.
Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email Saturday evening that all 100 monkeys had been accounted for, but that three had to be euthanized. She did not give a reason for their euthanizing but assured it would be done humanely according to current veterinary guidelines.
According to the CDC, the monkeys were en route to a quarantine facility after arriving at New York’s Kennedy Airport from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Cynomolgus macaque monkeys are often used in medical studies.
CDC workers in Atlanta-based were said to have provided “technical assistance” to Pennsylvania state police.
The animal rights nonprofit organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement saying the monkeys were being transported to a laboratory in Florida, and could likely pose a danger to the public.
“Because these 100 long-tailed macaque monkeys were headed to a laboratory to be caged, tormented, and killed, they were already in danger-but now the public is, too. The four who got away — including one who is still missing — are undoubtedly terrified and likely injured, and they may be harboring viruses that are transmissible to humans. There is no way to ensure that monkeys are virus-free,” PETA’s statement read.
It’s currently not clear what kind of research the monkeys were being used for. According to the AP, a 2015 paper by the National Center for Biotechnology Information said the monkeys are the most commonly used primates in preclinical toxicology studies.
A recent NY Times article also stated that the monkeys have been increasingly sought after for vaccine research during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police confirmed that the drivers and passengers involved in the crash were not seriously injured.