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Search under way for missing research monkey

A rhesus monkey plays in its compound in this 2009 file photo at the Yerkes Primate Center Field Station in Lawrenceville.

A rhesus monkey plays in its compound in this 2009 file photo at the Yerkes Primate Center Field Station in Lawrenceville.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A monkey has gone missing in Lawrenceville.

A 2-year-old female rhesus monkey was counted absent from its compound at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center near Collins Hill Road more than a week ago, according to a statement released by the center.

Officials noticed the primate, which weighs about five pounds, was missing from its compound during a June 15 veterinary exam of the center's animals.

Each compound inside the 117-acre Emory University field office is fenced in with sheet metal at the top and "block walls" connecting individual compounds, spokeswoman Lisa Newbern said Thursday. Yerkes personnel are unsure how the monkey may have escaped.

"We don't know, and certainly that's something that we're looking at," Newbern said. "Part of this process is looking at the structural integrity, seeing if anything came loose."

Newbern said this was the first incident of an animal escaping from the center that current employees "can think of."

The field office, opened in 1966, sits near the intersection of Collins Hill and Taylor roads, nestled among several subdivisions and a short distance from Collins Hill High School.

Newbern said residents of the Westchester Commons, Edgewater and Richland neighborhoods have been warned about the monkey, though officials stressed that it does not have the herpes B virus, "something common" to the species of rhesus macaques.

"This animal was in the process of being assigned to a behavioral research study, which is the focus of the research at the Yerkes Field Station," the center's statement read. "The animal was not part of a scientific study in which it would have been infected with any disease."

Several different units of personnel searched the monkey's compound and surrounding areas immediately following its disappearance. Newbern said she wouldn't be surprised if the primate in question was still somewhere in the field office, "but the only fact that's certain is that the animal is missing."

Those who see the monkey are asked to call the Yerkes Research Center at 404-727-7732 or Gwinnett County Animal Control at 770-339-3200. They are urged to "treat it like a wild animal and not approach it," Newbern said.

Lt. Mary Lou Respess of animal control said her crews are not "actively looking for" the primate, and that they were alerted basically so they would not dismiss any calls regarding the animal as a prank.

"We don't want to harm it if we can avoid it," Respess said, "but we also don't want to scare people."

Meanwhile, a fake Twitter account for the monkey, dubbed @EmoryMacaqueEsc, popped up Thursday. The "monkey" mostly retweeted others' comments about "herself" and replied to a limited number of followers.

The account's location was listed, of course, as "a secret."