Primate bound for sanctuary breaks out of cage at Texas airport

PHOTO: A baboon was spotting at the San Antonio Airport, May 21, 2018.PlayKSAT
WATCH Police search for baboon on the loose at Texas airport

A rhesus macaque monkey gave handlers the slip at San Antonio Airport, officials confirmed to ABC News.

The crafty primate, named Dawkins, managed to extricate itself from a crate on Monday after arriving at the Texas airport aboard American Airlines Flight No. 1014 from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, airport spokesman Rich Stinson said.

Staff members from Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary in Cotulla, Texas, were at the airport to meet Dawkins but he broke free, leading to a pursuit to bring him to safety.

"We had folks from our sanctuary there to meet him," Prashant Khetan, CEO of Born Free USA, a 50-year-old conservation nonprofit, told ABC News. "They always had eyes on Dawkins the entire time."

The airport's employed wildlife biologist, Animal Care Services personnel and a veterinarian from the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation all helped the Born Free members bring the primate back to its cargo cage.

PHOTO: The Born Free Primate Sanctuary in La Salle County, Texas. Born Free Primate Sanctuary
The "Born Free Primate Sanctuary" in La Salle County, Texas.

"He is completely under control and should be at our sanctuary soon," Khetan said.

Khetan confirmed that Dawkins will hopefully "live there for the rest of his life" at Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary, which boasts 186 acres of roaming land to give wildlife "a safe, permanent home."

"The focus of animal care at the sanctuary is to provide conditions in which the captive populations of macaques, baboons, and vervets are allowed to live out the remainder of their lives with extensive freedom of movement, choice of food, and choice of companions, in accordance with their social nature," the site reads.

He will be joining some 600 macaques, vervets, and baboons, confirmed Khetan.

PHOTO: The Born Free Primate Sanctuary in La Salle County, Texas. Born Free Primate Sanctuary
The "Born Free Primate Sanctuary" in La Salle County, Texas.

The primate's original itinerary traced him back to Boston's Logan International Airport, where he'd been sent from Brown University.

In a statement, the Brown confirmed that they sent a rhesus macaque to a Texas sanctuary as part of the university's attempt to "seek homes for non-human primates who are retired from research protocols."

"The macaque that was en route to Texas when its enclosure became open was being transported from Brown to an animal sanctuary as part of the university’s commitment to animal well-being," the statement reads.

American Airlines acknowledged that the primate "inadvertently became free of his cage."

Before he was brought back into his cage, the airline assured Dawkins was safely contained.

"He is currently in an isolated area where it is safe, away from all of our team members and customers," according to the statement. “We are working closely with the San Antonio Aviation Department and officials from the San Antonio Zoo. Officials from the zoo are now on site to ensure his safety and wellbeing as he continues his journey to his new home at the primate sanctuary.”

Khetan said that Dawkins was experiencing a great deal of anxiety.

"There was a ton of stress on Dawkins," he said. "He reacted to the stress."

Khetan said that an investigation is underway to determine "when Dawkins got out."

Dawkins' escape illustrates the need to help animals remain in the wild, Khetan said.

"There is so much unpredictability and that's what we're seeing here," he said. "That's why we fight to prevent keeping animals in captivity."

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