Researchers Gave Baboons a Tool. They Used It to Escape

4 baboons are quickly recovered in Texas after using a barrel to gain freedom
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2018 1:01 PM CDT
Researchers Gave Baboons a Tool. They Used It to Escape
A baboon plays outside at Peaceable Primate Sanctuary in Winamac, Ind.   (Becky Malewitz/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Animal researchers saw the 55-pound barrel as an "enrichment tool." Baboons, to whom it was given, apparently saw only a means for escape. Indeed, four baboons briefly escaped the Texas Biomedical Research Institute Saturday after propping a barrel against a wall of their open-air enclosure and using it to hop to the other side, per the San Antonio Express-News. "One of the baboons said, 'I am going to try to make this leap,' and jumped on top of the wall and out," the Washington Post quotes an official as saying. In what he calls "typical monkey see, monkey do" behavior, three other baboons followed suit. The animals didn't have long to enjoy their freedom, though: One returned to the enclosure on its own, while the others were tracked down within 30 minutes.

Two were captured near a tree line, but one reached a nearby road. A video shared by ABC News shows researchers chasing a baboon as cars whiz by. A passerby tells KSAT she saw "four guys clapping at the bushes. I just went about driving and then all of a sudden this brown big mass pops out." Luckily the escaped baboons are doing well, and they weren't involved in any infectious disease research at the institute, where new vaccines and medicines are developed. But the barrels, which were to help the baboons mimic foraging behavior, will be removed to prevent future escapes. Noting the facility has housed baboons for more than 50 years—it currently has 1,100—a rep says "this was truly a unique incident," per the BBC. (More baboon stories.)

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