Chimp Haven allows chimpanzees once used for medical research to live the “Chimp Lives” they were deprived of previously.

By Meghan Overdeep
January 10, 2020
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Many people are surprised to learn that the biggest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world is located not in Africa, but in rural Louisiana.

In the tiny unincorporated town of Keithville just South of Shreveport you’ll find Chimp Haven, a 200-acre sanctuary currently home to 300 chimpanzees.

Since 1995, the nonprofit has served as a retirement community of sorts for aging chimpanzees once used by the government for medical research.  The sanctuary allows chimpanzees to live the “Chimp Lives” they were deprived of previously, giving them room to explore, exercise, and live in large, social groups.

“[Chimp Haven] is now the only sanctuary where hundreds of government-owned and supported chimpanzees formerly used in research can now choose how they want to spend their days and who they want to spend their time interacting with,” Rana Smith, Chimp Haven’s president and chief executive officer, told Culture Map Dallas.

The organization first received a federal contract in 2000 when Congress passed the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, which established a federal sanctuary system to provide lifetime care for chimpanzees retired from medical research. Then in 2015, when the National Institutes of Health officially ended all research on the primates, they were able to welcome even more chimps to their sprawling sanctuary.

Unfortunately, there are still 175 chimpanzees living in research facilities throughout the country. To make room for more, Chimp Haven is currently undergoing a $20 million expansion (funded entirely by donations!) slated for spring 2020 completion.

“We’re on a mission to connect [chimpanzees] to the happy, healthy lives they deserve," Smith told Culture Map Dallas. "After years in research facilities serving human needs, we feel strongly it is our time to serve them.”

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For those who want to pay a visit to Chimp Haven, the sanctuary hosts four Chimpanzee Discovery Days a year, giving guests a rare opportunity to learn about chimps and observe them in their habitat. Admission can be paid at the entrance: $10 for visitors ages 13 and up, $5 for ages 6 to 12. There is no charge for ages 5 and younger.

Visit ChimpHaven.org for more information.