After a year and a half of intense planning, fundraising and traveling, all 110 federally owned chimpanzees formerly used in research at the New Iberia Research Center in New Iberia, La. have been retired to the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary – Chimp Haven.
“We are thrilled that this great day has finally arrived,” Chimp Haven President and CEO Cathy Willis Spraetz said. “Many organizations and individuals have worked tirelessly to ensure these chimpanzees would have a new beginning in a sanctuary environment. Our dreams have finally been realized for these amazing animals.”
The campaign to bring the chimpanzees, ranging from 1 to 50 years of age, from the southern Louisiana laboratory to Chimp Haven began in November 2012 when the National Institutes of Health determined that they be retired. Initially, plans were made to only send 10 to the northwest Louisiana sanctuary and the remainder to a laboratory in Texas.
“When we learned that all of the chimpanzees would not be retired to Chimp Haven, we felt they were being robbed of what was promised to them in the CHIMP Act, signed into law in 2000 and reauthorized in 2013,” Spraetz said. “It was necessary to devise a plan that would offer a safe and caring atmosphere, one where these chimpanzees can live the rest of their lives in large social groups and determine on their own how they will spend their days. We, along with many others, felt that environment could only be achieved at Chimp Haven and thank NIH for reconsidering the plans for these chimpanzees.
Immediately, the 200 acre sanctuary launched Road to Chimp Haven, a $5 million campaign that would cover needed construction and care for the incoming chimpanzees. Organizations such as, The New England Antivivisection Society, The Humane Society of the United States, The National Antivivisection Society and The American Antivivisection Society made significant donations. Animal activists Bob Barker and Anita Hirsh, both made $1 million contributions toward construction of the play areas and bedrooms.
Since the start of construction last year, six play areas have been completed which enabled the sanctuary to complete the transitioning phase for the chimpanzees. Currently, several bedrooms and one large open play ground are nearing completion which will allow more room for future growth.
“Because of the generosity of our donors, we have made great strides for these beautiful animals,” Spraetz said. “However, the public’s help is needed to close the $2 million funding gap that still remains and must be earmarked for their daily care for the remainder of their lives.”