Two chimpanzees that escaped from a sanctuary south of Festus this afternoon (Aug. 9) have been returned to their home at the Missouri Primate Foundation, 12338 Hwy. CC, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Grant Bissell.
A woman who works at the facility suffered a minor injuring during the incident but refused medical treatment, Bissell reported.
At about 12:45 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office was notified that a male and female chimp got out of the sanctuary. It looked like there was an unsecured lock on an animal enclosure at the facility, which allowed the chimps to escape, Bissell said.
He said the chimps were found on a neighboring property. The male chimp was contained, tranquilized and returned to the facility at about 2:30 p.m., and the female was captured, tranquilized and returned to the facility at about 3:45 p.m.
Bissell said employees from Critter Lane in Valles Mines provided and used the tranquilizers on the chimps.
This is the second time in just a little more than a month that a chimp has gotten out of the Missouri Primate Foundation.
A chimp named Makayla escaped from the facility on July 30, when she was seen on Hwy. CC attempting to open a car door before she was captured and returned to the facility.
Tonia Haddix, who took over legal ownership of the chimps at the sanctuary from Connie Casey in 2018, said Makayla was able to get out because a lock malfunctioned on a cage.
The Missouri Primate Foundation was formerly known as Chimparty, which provided chimps for parties, television ads and movies. However, Casey closed the business and transferred ownership to Haddix in an attempt to end a lawsuit the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed against Casey, claiming the facility’s conditions were unfit for the animals.
A chimp had also escaped from the facility in 2001 and was shot and killed by Jason Coats, who was 17 at that time and said he was afraid the animal would hurt him.
Jason Coats, 37, of De Soto was convicted of felony destruction of property and misdemeanor animal abuse in connection with the incident and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and had to complete numerous programs.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised (it happened again),” Coats said today. “I guess I am surprised it happened this soon again, and it is just a matter of time before they get out again from here.
“It is just ridiculous. Does somebody have to die for these people to face any kind of responsibility or liability for animals they have. I am just glad no first responders or neighbors got hurt. But it is just a time bomb waiting to go off. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when.”
In July, Haddix said the lawsuit PETA filed against Casey is ongoing. In 2018, it appeared to be settled when Casey transferred ownership of the chimps to Haddix, but she has since been added to the lawsuit, which seeks to get the chimps transferred to a different habitat.
Haddix said she currently lives in a trailer she moved onto the Hwy. CC property to care for the chimps. She said the lawsuit’s next court date is in January 2021.
She did not return a phone message left with her this afternoon.