EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — A primate scientist says the Danville crash involving monkeys on Interstate 80 at the beginning of the year ‘ripped the lid off.’

The I-team takes an in-depth look at an industry most know little about, but all pay for with tax dollars.

There are a number of national primate research centers in the U.S. funded by the National Institute of Health using billions of taxpayer dollars. But a recent incident in our area raised questions about the industry that supplies the monkeys.

“It ripped the lid off of this very secretive, very murky, poorly regulated industry,” said Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, PETA Senior Science Advisor, Primate Experimentation.

Each year tens of thousands of monkeys are captured from Africa, Asia and South America and transported to the U.S. to be used for biomedical research. They are shipped all over the country to various labs and facilities. Primate scientist Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel says the crash in Danville in January was a nightmare scenario.

“The truck was in an accident, the monkeys were spilled out onto the highway, the crates split open, three of the monkeys escaped there was monkey feces and urine and blood,” said Dr. Jones-Engel.

The incident is under investigation by the USDA. Dr. Jones Engel says it’s just one example of the dangers tied to the monkey trade.

“It’s very telling, the CDC immediately dispatched a team, they came up they were on site within a few hours and the decision was made, the risk-assessment was made to shoot to kill those three animals,” said Dr. Jones-Engel.

Monday, PETA filed a complaint with the USDA, alleging widespread animal welfare act violations among registered research facilities, licensed dealers, accredited veterinarians, and registered carriers.

The law requires that once in the U.S., primates have to receive a clean bill of health from a certified veterinarian within 10 days of commercial transport. Documents show 56 instances in the last year where that didn’t happen.

Dr. Jones-Engel says that poses a serious threat to public health. These monkeys often carry infectious diseases like B-virus and Listeria.

“Those infections move with them as they move around the country,” stated Dr. Jones-Engel. She claims the industry involves a lot of ‘middlemen’ and is more about money than science.

“It’s a monkey supply chain, and at every stop along the way, there’s a risk to humans, there’s always a risk and trauma to the monkeys,” explained Dr. Jones-Engel.

Eyewitness News is following up with the USDA regarding the complaint and the ongoing investigation into the Danville incident.