Report: Monkeys had 6 escape attempts at Albuquerque lab

Kirtland Air Force Base
Kirtland Air Force Base

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Monkeys at a research facility on an Albuquerque Air Force base escaped from their cages at least six times last year, said federal officials.

The monkeys were all recaptured after getting loose in the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute on Kirtland Air Force Base, according to inspection reports by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials.

Staff members were able to lure the animals back into their cages, often by using food, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

One of the monkeys that escaped, according to a June 2014 USDA report, was used for research involving potentially dangerous illnesses and toxins. None of the subsequent escape reports involved animals used as part of that research.

Another escape involved a rhesus macaque that slipped away while staff members were transferring it from one cage to another. That monkey remained “up in the rafters” for about 45 minutes, according to a report on the Dec. 30 incident.

Attempts to capture it with a net failed and it was eventually lured into an enclosure with food, according to the report.

An October 2014 inspection report describes another instance in which a large, male rhesus macaque broke a lock on its cage. It had to be darted by staff to be recaptured.

“The facility did not have enclosures available that were sturdy enough for larger male macaques when this animal arrived at the facility,” the report said.

LRRI later obtained new lock systems and improved training to prevent escapes, according to the report.

Officials at the institute, which is a nonprofit, responded to the Albuquerque Journal’s request for comment with a written statement.

“As a result of these routine inspections, LRRI remains nimble in refining its standard operating procedures to maintain stellar operating practices,” it said, adding that the inspections allow LRRI “to continue to improve and refine its facilities and processes on a consistent basis.”

The nonprofit was required to pay a $21,750 fine in 2011 for six violations of the Animal Welfare Act. LRRI works under contract with government and private clients, including the Department of Defense and studies required for federal approval of new drugs.

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