KEITHVILLE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A group of chimpanzees known as “The Treetop Ten” are settling into their new home at Chimp Haven after a 1,600 mile-country trip from the west coast, leaving behind a defunct wildlife refuge outside of the city of Los Angeles for country living in the backwoods of northern Louisiana.
It took three years, $4 million in donations, and careful planning for the last of 40 stranded primates to reach their new home at the world’s largest Chimpanzee sanctuary, which is located in DeSoto Parish near Keithville.
“We’ve been working tirelessly for three years to rescue the chimps impacted by the closure of the Wildlife Waystation, and I’m ecstatic that the final moves to sanctuary have been done,” North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) Program Director Erika Fleury said in a statement released Tuesday.
NAPSA organization led the fundraising campaign Chimpanzees in Need, which raised more than $4 million to bring the chimps to Chimp Haven.
Thanks to the Annenberg Foundation, earlier this year Chimp Haven was able to complete a $20 million expansion that allows them to accommodate up to 100 additional chimpanzees.
The new Annenberg Pavilion includes a prep kitchen and food storage for caregivers, areas for veterinary staff, open-air corrals, and three new multi-acre habitats.
The Treetop Ten were the last of 40 chimpanzees left behind when the Wildlife Waystation refuge closed unexpectedly in 2019. Most of the animals were rehomed, but chimpanzees require complex and specialized care, and there was no place for them to go until Chimpanzees in Need was formed. Over a three-year period, Chimpanzees in Need worked with a handful of facilities across the country capable of caring for chimps to expand their habitats to welcome the chimpanzees, most of whom were retired from biomedical research or the entertainment industry.
While Chimp Haven has been the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world since 2018, it has been the subject of some criticism from animal rights groups in recent years, including a federal complaint in July that cited an escape and deaths caused by fights among chimpanzees. Federal regulators have since confirmed the sanctuary had acted to correct the problems.
In its announcement of the transfer of the final chimps from Los Angeles, Chimp Haven noted that Chimpanzees In Need has the endorsement of leading ethologist and activist Dr. Jane Goodall.
“I’ve visited these sanctuaries,” Goodall said of Chimp Haven and other accredited sanctuaries working to save the Wildlife Waystation chimpanzees. “They’ll provide perfect environments where these chimpanzees, who’ve known so much suffering, can live out their lives in peace.”
Axil, Buster, Connor, December, Denise, Inky, Mocha, and Tequila, the last Chimpanzees to be rescued, were transported from California to Louisiana by a team of experts. All ten chimps arrived safely at Chimp Haven and are currently settling into their new environment. They will spend this Christmas surrounded by hundreds of other chimps in the piney woods, climbing real trees for what will likely be the first time in their lives.
Chimp Have President and CEO Rana Smith says everyone at Chimp Haven is thrilled to welcome The Treetop Ten to the sanctuary.