They wanted out of there. And when you read further, you'll see why!
On April 16, 2017, four baboons made a coordinated escape from the Southwest National Primate Research Center at Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. They stood up a 55 gallon "enrichment" barrel next to their confine's inward-slanted walls and just climbed out. Well, three of the baboons took off down the street running next to cars and away from frantic lab techs. The fourth decided to stay inside, after all.
Eleven hundred baboons live at the Primate Research Center. The photo below shows their living area.
These extremely intelligent animals, native to central Africa, are opportunistic eaters, mostly vegetarian, but eat the fish that they catch. In the wild, they hunt, climb trees, and socialize, but in their captive environment, how could they not waste away on the barren Texas land shown above?
At the Southwest National Primate Research Center, this is where baboons hang out until they are chosen for an experiment. The blue barrels were recently placed in their large pen as "enrichment tools" to encourage foraging. That's it!
Newsweek reports that the Research Center was fined more than $25,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to Kathleen Conlee of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). She said that there is a "history of animal welfare violations at the center" and that there are not "a lot of enrichment or opportunities to engage in natural behavior."
Baboons in the Mahale National Park, Tanzania (image)
In fact, there have been instances of direct abuse to the captive baboons reported to the federal government, according to Ms. Conlee, and she contends that the staff at the Center do not have enough knowledge about the animals they use for research in order to care for them properly.
In 2015, the National Institutes of Health stopped using chimpanzees for research experiments and relocated its chimps to animal sanctuaries. With new technologies that don't involve research animals, there are certainly cures for human disease ahead, but no cure, so far, for our collective conscience.