Missing monkey is found after 100 escape in Pennsylvania highway crash

Enclosed wooden crates are scattered across the westbound lanes of state Route 54 near Danville, Pa.
Wooden crates holding live monkeys are scattered across the westbound lanes of state Route 54 near Danville, Pa., on Friday after a pickup pulling a trailer carrying about 100 monkeys was hit by a dump truck.
(Jimmy May / Bloomsburg [Pa.] Press Enterprise)
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The last of 100 escaped monkeys from the crash of a truck towing a trailer load of the animals was accounted for by late Saturday, a day after the pickup collided with a dump truck on a Pennsylvania highway, authorities said.

Several monkeys had escaped following Friday’s collision, Pennsylvania State Police said. But only one had remained unaccounted for as of Saturday morning, prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other agencies to launch a search for it amid frigid weather.

Police had urged people not to look for or capture any monkey, with troopers tweeting: “Anyone who sees or locates the monkey is asked not to approach, attempt to catch, or come in contact with the monkey. Please call 911 immediately.”


Trooper Lauren Lesher had said the concern was “due to it not being a domesticated animal and them being in an unknown territory. It is hard to say how they would react to a human approaching them.”

Lesher said state police secured the scene for the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC.

Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email Saturday evening that all 100 of the cynomolgus macaque monkeys had since been accounted for. Three were dead after being euthanized.

The email did not elaborate on why the three were euthanized or how all came to be accounted for. But Nordlund said those euthanized were done so humanely according to American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines.

The shipment of monkeys was en route to a CDC-approved quarantine facility after arriving Friday morning at New York’s Kennedy Airport from Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island nation, police said. The Atlanta-based CDC said the agency was providing “technical assistance” to state police in Pennsylvania.

The collision occurred on a state highway near an Interstate 80 exit in Pennsylvania’s Montour County, Trooper Andrea Pelachick told the Daily Item newspaper of Sunbury.


The location of the quarantine facility and the type of research for which the monkeys were apparently destined weren’t clear, but cynomolgus monkeys are often used in medical studies. A 2015 paper posted on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information referred to them as the most widely used primate in preclinical toxicology studies.

The condition of the motorists involved in the crash wasn’t clear, nor was it immediately known whether any citations were issued.

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A crash witness, Michelle Fallon, told the Press Enterprise newspaper of Bloomsburg, Pa., that she spoke with the pickup driver and a passenger after the crash. The driver appeared to be disoriented, and the passenger thought he might have injured his legs, she said.

Crates littered the road Friday as troopers carrying rifles searched for monkeys. Valley Township firefighters used thermal imaging to try to find the animals, and a helicopter also assisted, the Press Enterprise reported.

The pickup was heading west on I-80 when it got off at the Danville exit and then immediately tried to get back on, driving across the other lane, the newspaper reported.

Fallon told the Press Enterprise that she was behind the pickup when it was hit on the passenger’s side by the dump truck, tearing off the front panel of the trailer and sending more than a dozen crates tumbling out.


She and another motorist who stopped to help were standing near the scene when the other driver said he thought he saw a cat run across the road, Fallon said.

Fallon peeked into a crate and saw a small monkey looking back at her, she told the newspaper.

“They’re monkeys,” she told the other motorist.