Three monkeys that escaped their trailer after a collision on a Pennsylvania highway Friday were recovered the next day but have been euthanized after officials assessed possible health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the assessment included input from state health and police officials and that the animals were euthanized as humanely as possible under American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines.
The animals were part of a shipment of 100 cynomolgus macaque monkeys from Mauritius to an unnamed CDC-approved facility used to quarantine foreign animals, the agency said in a statement Sunday. They had arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday morning, the CDC said.
The 97 others were contained at the crash site in Montour County’s Valley Township, authorities said. The collision Friday on Route 54 near Interstate 80 happened when the pickup towing the monkeys in a trailer cut in front of a big rig, state police said in an incident report.
The driver of the big rig was uninjured. The pickup’s driver was hospitalized after he said he thought he had minor injuries, according to the report.
Authorities were instructed to secure the area for the CDC and the state Health Department, State Trooper Andrea Pelachick said Friday.
The reason for the monkeys’ U.S. arrival was not confirmed. Pelachick told The Daily Item newspaper of Sunbury that they were headed to a lab.
Lisa Jones-Engel, a science adviser for the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said by email that information about the case was lacking.
“We’d like to know exactly how those monkeys died,” she said, adding that all of the monkeys should be tested for possible viruses.
Cynomolgus macaque monkeys are often used in nonclinical research, including safety studies, and they are among the animal world’s closest human relatives.
Monkeys have been known to transmit diseases such as monkeypox and the herpes B virus. The virus was reported to have killed a veterinary surgeon in China last year after he dissected two dead monkeys.
Authorities had asked people Friday night to stay away from the crash site and call 911 if they spotted one of the primates.
Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.