Yes, I know this sounds like the opening scene of a Hollywood movie about a new highly-contagious pathogen that ravages the United States. Well, there is a highly-contagious pathogen ravaging the United States, and a truck full of lab monkeys has crashed. However, the two statements of fact are unrelated.
A truck carrying 100 lab monkeys in crates crashed in Pennsylvania near Danville just off I-80 yesterday afternoon. The truck en route to a lab collided with a dump truck, then crates spilled out of the truck’s rear and scattered over the road surface. Witnesses who drove past the scene said they didn’t react to the animals they saw scrambling across the road because they believed the monkeys were cats.
The Pennsylvania State Police responded to the scene as well as members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Centers for Disease Control. Four monkeys did escape the scene, and local authorities have found one monkey so far. The other three monkeys are missing.
Lab monkeys are all but required to be transported across the country by truck. Organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) have pressured the vast majority of airlines into rejecting contracts to transport primates to the point that the Department of Transportation considered proposals forcing airlines into accepting contracts. According to PeTA, Air France is the last airline operating in American airspace that still transports primates for laboratory purposes.
Those searching for the animals believe that the monkeys would have had difficulty surviving the night in Pennsylvania as the temperatures in Danville dropped below 10 degrees overnight. The animals acclimated to tropical and subtropical climates would have needed to find adequate shelter to avoid freezing to death.
The Pennsylvania State Police informed the media that it was searching the area via helicopter with thermal cameras. I’m not holding out any hope. If the three lost monkeys haven’t been found by now, I fully expect state troopers to find frozen primate corpses.