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Chimp Haven rallies midway through $5 million capital campaign

Kate Archer Kent

The introduction of new chimpanzees into the established groups at Chimp Haven can be tricky. There tends to be some infighting at first. Eight federally-owned former research chimps from New Iberia are learning to live in their new groups at the national sanctuary in Keithville, La. Chimp Haven is now home to 169 retired chimps.

Today, eight restaurants located in Shreveport and as far away as Connecticut and Ohio are donating a portion of their proceeds to Chimp Haven’s $5 million capital campaign. President Cathy Willis Spraetz said in the second year of the fundraiser, Chow down for Chimp Haven is growing just like the nonprofit’s visibility.

"Chimp Haven is just on the brink of becoming even more well-known and recognized in the field, and really being able to expand the awareness around the country about Chimp Haven, and in fact even the world," Spraetz said.

Spraetz took over as president in February following the retirement of Linda Brent. Spraetz has learned the names of all 36 of her employees. That was the easy part. Now she’s trying to learn the names of the chimps.  She says the primate staff takes ID tests, and she’s taken one too. She can identify about 30 chimps and one day she aims to know them all.

“The care staff has to go through testing pretty regularly, just to make sure that they’ve got it right. Some of the chimpanzees have healthcare needs. They need to be able to know which ones they are and make sure they’ve giving the right stuff to the right people -- the right chimpanzees," Spraetz said.

The local eateries participating in the Chimp Haven cause include Zocolo and a Raising Canes location. Tomorrow, a look at how Chimp Haven is preparing to house 111 chimps from the New Iberia Research Center.