Baboons being used for medical testing at a research lab momentarily experienced the sweet taste of freedom after grouping together for an elaborate escape.
Four baboons managed to roll a 250 litre barrel to the edge of an enclosure they were kept in at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, US, before hopping the fence.
The animals made a run for freedom, and were filmed sprinting along a road close to the laboratory, with researchers seen desperately chasing behind them.
Three of the baboons were eventually rounded up by staff and returned to their enclosure after half an hour. The last one was captured some hours after the dramatic escape on Saturday.
Witness Jannelle Bouton said it was clear staff ‘were panicking’ as the animals ran along a main road.
‘They didn’t want [one of the baboons] to get hurt because they were trying their best to quarantine him, but being that kind of animal, he wasn’t having it,’ she said.
‘You just want to know what they are doing is safe.’
In a statement after the monkeys had been returned to the centre, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute said: ‘Our immediate concern has been for the safety of the animals, personnel and our neighbours in the surrounding area.
‘Our animal capture team and entire animal care team acted diligently to locate, secure and account for all four baboons.’
The institute said the animals were seen by veterinary staff members and are doing well.
‘We have nearly 1100 baboons on the property that date back eight generations,’ the statement went on.
‘These baboons are critical to biomedical research, particularly in chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more.’
The barrel used in the escape was put in the enclosure because the animal team deemed it an enrichment tool that helped baboons mimic foraging behavior, the laboratory said.
After the escape, staff removed it from the enclosure and will determine if any modifications can be made.
The research institute houses more than 2,500 animals, with scientists conducting research on them to help develop new vaccines and medicines.
Upon hearing of the escape bid, many on Twitter said the baboons ‘deserved’ their freedom and should not have been taken back.