#TravelTuesday: Chimpanzees Find Peaceful Refuge in North Louisiana Haven

by Brian Maass on December 18, 2018 in Travel,

Located just a short drive from Shreveport, Louisiana, in the town of Keithville, you’ll find a unique spot which makes for an intriguing visit for all the family.

Founded in 1995, Chimp Haven was formed as a sanctuary for chimpanzees used in human disease research. Then, in 2000, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance Protection Act (CHIMP) was passed, creating a sanctuary system for retired chimps used in medical research and with federal provisions for building and operating those sanctuaries. Today, Chimp Haven sits inside Eddie D. Jones Park on 200 wooded acres donated by the Caddo Parish Commission in 2000. Federal funds were awarded to create a sanctuary where its residents could socialize, while living in spacious outdoor habitats.  

Chimpanzees at Chimp Haven enjoy a secure, protected habitat of 200 wooded acres. Photo Brian Maass

Back in 1995, Rita and Teresa became the first two chimpanzee residents at the newly-opened Chimp Haven. Since Chimp Haven opened, the staff has cared for more than 400 chimpanzees. One of the more recognizable residents of Chimp Haven is Henry, the only former pet chimpanzee in the sanctuary. Henry was kept inside a garage in what has been described as deplorable conditions. Underweight and almost completely bald when he arrived, Henry is now fully healthy, and has a number of close friends within his family of chimps.

Henry, the only former pet chimpanzee in the sanctuary, keeps a watchful eye over his home, Chimp Haven. Courtesy photo

In 2007, the Chimp Haven is Home Act was passed. This act prohibited retired chimpanzees from being returned to research facilities. in 2015, the National Institutes of Health made the landmark decision to retire all NIH-owned chimpanzees living in research centers around the country.

Today, Chimp Haven is home to more than 260 chimpanzees with more on the way. Over 40 staff members take care of the animals, which live in large indoor and outdoor habitats and are able to live in social groups specific to their needs and choose how they spend their days.  

During special events throughout the  year the public can learn about the animals. Chimpanzee Discovery Day allows visitors to see the chimps in their forested habitats, learn about their personalities from the caregivers and hear what is involved in caring for the chimps. Chimp, Chat and Chew offers a more intimate look at the chimpanzees, including a behind-the-scenes tour, special presentations by the care staff and a glimpse into the chimps’ lives.

Natalie is Chimp Haven’s youngest resident and one of its “oops” babies. Unfortunately, both of Natalie’s parents passed away when she was 2 years old, however, her “aunts” and “uncle” stepped in to care for her. Courtesy photo

When you visit Chimp Haven, keep in mind that it is a habitat and not a zoo. It is a place where Henry, Ladybird, Keeli and many more chimps live in natural surroundings. As you leave Chimp Haven, be sure to shift your gaze toward the treetops, where you just might see Henry watching over his sanctuary.

More chimps are on the way, and Chimp Haven is expanding. To support the organization with a donation, give online today.


Cover photo courtesy Chimp Haven

Native Austinite Brian Maass has long had a passion for music and movies, and is now bringing that same passion to the world of photography. @maass_brian and brian_maass_photographer