Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5am to winds at a high speed. About thirty seconds later, there was a torrential downpour. A minute after that, tornado sirens rang. In the course of three minutes after the alarms, my significant other and I had gotten up, put on suitable clothes and shoes, corralled the cats into their carrier, and booked it downstairs to the first floor of our apartment. Fortunately, not much came of it and both of us came up within fifteen minutes. While nothing happened, my general instinct was to go to the area in which we would be the safest.
This is an instinct we share with multiple animals, but particularly so with our evolutionary ancestors.
A few weeks back, a chemical explosion occurred in a chemical plant near the New Iberia Research Center, a primate research institute which contains 360 chimpanzees and 6,500 new and old world monkeys. While the wind blew the smoke north, rather than west closer to the primate research center, individuals outside the facility could feel the strong heat.
The researchers also noticed an interesting reaction from the primates as the incident occurred; the rhesus macaques housed outside were quick to drop from their perches for enrichment and get as close to the ground as possible to avoid overheating. According to the director of the facility, Thomas Rowell, “The animals nearest the incident were down at the bottom of the cages, eating and milling about. The intensity of the heat, if you were standing … was overwhelming. At ground level, there was little, if any heat. They were smart enough to squat on the ground and not expose themselves to the intense heat.”
While there have been no signs of stress or illness, staff will be monitoring the primates to ensure individuals weren’t exposed to chemicals from the plant.