SAN ANTONIO – One of the world's most popular animal rights groups responded to the Saturday escape of four baboons from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute's Southwest National Primate Research Center, pointing to past violations and primate deaths at the facility.
Several documents provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals show issues discovered during inspections of the facility by inspectors with the U.S.Department of Agriculture.
From 2010 to present, the USDA has required the Texas Biomedical Research Institute to make changes to various aspects of the facility's infrastructure and care for the animals. The facility was also required to pay a fine after it was found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act in 2011.
Click the violation to read the inspection report:
- In 2011, the USDA notified staff at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute it believed the facility had violated the Animal Welfare Act. The letter stated the institute must pay $25,714, but allowed for the facility to appeal. It's unclear how much the facility paid.
- In 2013 and 2014, the USDA required staff learn how to properly maintain guillotine doors in the primates' enclosures after three primates died in the span of a year. The report states the animals were getting caught in cords and strangling themselves.
- In 2014, the USDA required the facility to assess the primates' health and well being daily after a male baboon died from Sepsis from trauma wounds and a female primate suffered a tail degloving injury, among other injuries. The report states the male baboon was emaciated and had multiple scabs from bite wounds and sores on his leg and ankle at the time of his death.
- In 2016, the USDA required that staff at the facility be retrained in handling animals in the chute system after two incidents -- one resulting in the death of an infant baboon.
- In 2017, the USDA required the facility to modify its heater system after a male baboon suffered second degree burns from coming in contact with a heater pipe.
Officials with the SNPRC confirmed it had been fined and had received notice of the aforementioned violations.
SNPRC staff members explained Monday how the four baboons were able to escape the facility on Saturday.
According to a press release, the baboons are housed in an open-air enclosure that is surrounded by perimeter walls that are angled inward. The baboons rolled a 55-gallon barrel to an upright position and used it to climb out of the housing structure.
The barrels were in the enclosure because they are used as an enrichment tool for the animals, but after Saturday's escape, the barrels have been removed from the enclosure.
Three of the baboons were recaptured within 20-30 minutes of escaping. The fourth baboon returned to the enclosure on his own.
All of the escaped baboons were unharmed and are said to be doing well.
SNPRC has more than 2,500 animals on the Texas Biomed campus. They are used to study diseases, drug therapies and vaccines.
“We have been caring for research baboons for more than 50 years. We have nearly 1,100 baboons on the property that date back eight generations. Baboons, as with all our animals, are critical to biomedical research. Baboons, in particular, have played an important role in the discovery of lifesaving drugs, therapies and vaccines and have led to greater understanding of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and so much more that impact the lives of millions of people," said Lisa Cruz, assistant vice president for communications.