Nearly all of the chimpanzees at Chimp Haven were used in biomedical research before they came to sanctuary. At Chimp Haven, they experience many of the joys they would have enjoyed in the wild: climbing trees, living in large, bonded social groups, eating their favorite fruits, running, playing, exploring, and — best of all — choosing how they spend their days. Learn more about their lives at sanctuary below.
Chimpanzee Troops (or family groups)
Like humans, chimpanzees are very social creatures. In the wild, they live in mixed-sex troops of 20-100 chimpanzees. At Chimp Haven, chimpanzees are given the same opportunity to live in large, dynamic family groups. Troop sizes at Chimp Haven typically range from 6 – 21 chimpanzees, and just like in the wild, each has their own alpha. Social structures for chimpanzees are fission-fusion, which means members may split into smaller groups throughout the day, but then may come back together in the evening for a meal, or just to spend time together. Chimpanzees are also territorial, and like they would in the wild, the residents at Chimp Haven patrol the boundaries of their territories each day looking for possible intruders.
Chimp Haven is nestled among 200 acres of forested land in northwest Louisiana. The sanctuary provides a variety of enclosures and living spaces to meet the chimps’ needs, including several multi-acre forested habitats.
Residents have the opportunity to live in a safe and natural environment full of opportunities to play, explore and climb, just as chimps do in the wild. Chimp Haven’s first residents experienced the forested habitat in July 2005, and since then many more have spent their days in large social groups, in spacious, outdoor habitats, with choices and opportunity to experience life in the forest.
Chimpanzees are omnivorous, which means that in the wild, they eat both plants and animals. At Chimp Haven, the chimps are provided with a fresh, healthy diet consisting of primate biscuits, fruits, vegetables, and food enrichment.
Chimps also may forage through the vegetation for snacking, create nests from the materials, or craft tools. The chimps at Chimp Haven have been observed making use of native Louisiana plant species such sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and elm (Ulmus spp.).
Our veterinary team currently provides expert care for the more than 300 chimps in our colony. From the moment they begin their journey to sanctuary, our veterinary team begins developing a personal relationship with each chimpanzee to ensure their health and well-being. Each day this expert team visits every chimpanzee that lives at the sanctuary. They provide any needed medications and conduct an array of services from basic wellness examinations to dental care and other specialized therapies. Wellness and other physical exams may include ultrasounds, x-rays, and diagnostic blood work. Specialized treatments for ailments such as arthritis include joint supplements and laser therapy.
Chimp Haven’s Enrichment team develops tailored enrichment activities for every chimp at the sanctuary, 365 days per year. From sensory experiences like live music or dance performances, to challenging food puzzles that require the chimpanzees to use a tool to fish out hidden goodies, there’s no limit to the creative activities our Enrichment team produces. These daily enrichment activities mimic the novel experiences chimpanzees would encounter in the wild and keep our retirees mentally and emotionally flourishing.
Freedom to Choose
While Chimp Haven works hard to provide everything a chimpanzee could want in retirement, perhaps the most important element is the freedom to choose. Here, the chimps always get to choose how and where to spend their days. Whether it’s outside, sunbathing on their favorite platform, inside napping with a friend, practicing their Positive Reinforcement Training with staff, or charming their favorite caregiver for some juice, the chimps run the show here at Chimp Haven. That’s why we like to call life at the sanctuary the “Chimp Life.”