Chimp Haven prepares for influx of retirees to sanctuary
The first wave of newly-retired federal research chimpanzees are arriving at the national sanctuary near Shreveport. Seven chimps arrive today. Chimp Haven will eventually take in all 111 chimps from the University of Louisiana Lafayette’s New Iberia Research Center. It no longer has a government contract for chimp research. Chimp Haven vice president Jennifer Whitaker said the chimps will stay in a quarantine area for at least two weeks as they make the transition into their retirement home.
“For the first few weeks we have to watch them closely – behaviorally and medically – and make sure that everyone is doing OK and getting acclimated to the facility," Whitaker said. "We have to do that prior to then releasing them into their larger habitat.”
A National Institutes of Health committee is recommending close to all of the agency’s hundreds of research chimps be retired to Chimp Haven. The group’s recommendations are now in a 60-day public comment phase ahead of a final decision from the agency’s director. Whitaker said Chimp Haven’s property, when completely developed, could support 425 chimps. She said her organization will work closely with NIH as government-backed chimp research is phased out.
“It definitely puts the spotlight on us, and shows not only government facilities but other entities and the public what we are capable of doing,” Whitaker said.
Chimp Haven is in the midst of a $5 million fundraising campaign to provide for the additional chimps from New Iberia. Whitaker said Chimp Haven wants to accommodate all government-owned chimps retiring from medical research in the coming years.