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Chimpanzee, monkeys and lemurs die after Texas sanctuary loses power

Staff and volunteers at Primarily Primates are working "around the clock" to evacuate dozens of animals from the 78-acre sanctuary near San Antonio.
Image: Lemurs at Primarily Primates animal sanctuary
Primarily Primates, an animal sanctuary in Bexar County, Texas, said the historic freeze has taken a deadly toll on its population of dozens of monkeys, lemurs and apes.Primarily Primates

At least a dozen animals, including monkeys, lemurs and one chimpanzee, died after record-setting cold and snow left a Texas animal sanctuary without power, officials said.

“We are devastated,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, which has managed the Primarily Primates sanctuary near San Antonio since 2007.

In an interview Thursday, she described a chaotic scene as temperatures dropped and staff climbed enclosures to capture frightened animals and shepherd them into warm bedrooms.

"Even if you had supplied heat to the bedrooms, some of these lemurs and monkeys would not go in," Feral told NBC News.

"There were macaques," she said. "The alpha males would not go into their heated bedrooms. Would not. Their subordinates went in. We lost a few monkeys that way."

The chimpanzee did not freeze to death, according to Feral.

Violet, as the 58-year-old primate was called, had "preexisting conditions," and officials believe the chimp had a stroke, Feral said.

While the current death toll stands at 12, she warned it would be some time before officials could assess how many animals died.

Dozens of surviving primates and exotic animals that live at the 78-acre sanctuary have either been evacuated by an exotic animal specialist or moved to warm locations on site or the San Antonio Zoo.

Feral said the effort to keep the animals alive while power is out and roads are impassable is taking a toll on staff, who have been forced to sleep in their running cars in order to stay warm.

"The hardship is enormous," she said.

On Monday, officials sent an urgent call via the San Antonio Zoo for blankets, flashlights, propane tanks, generators, heaters and animal carriers.

By Wednesday, the sanctuary was asking the public for generators, peanut butter, bread, jelly, camp lights, filled propane tanks, water and other items as they kept staff on premises to monitor the animals in 30- to 40-minute shifts, according to Feral.

Their greatest need now is for fuel to refill propane heaters they are using to keep the animals that remain at the sanctuary warm, she said.

Any donations surpassing immediate need received would be directed toward the acquisition of a full generator system for the sanctuary so future power outages never impact the facility's ability to keep the animals warm, Feral said.