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Chimp Haven prepares for next expansion of national sanctuary

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Kate Archer Kent
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Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana, is completing construction on what it calls a welcome center.

It’s designed for new primates, not people. It will serve as a quarantine facility with a surgical wing, according to Chimp Haven CEO Cathy Willis Spraetz.

Incoming chimpanzees will stay in the facility for 17 days. During that time, she says, Chimp Haven’s staff tests twice for tuberculosis, which can wipe out a colony, and evaluates temperament for placement in social groups.

“We want to be careful that they’re not bringing something into the colony, and it’s also an opportunity for them to be with their social groups and get used to us,” Willis Spraetz said.

She expects the new quarantine facility will be completed in December, enabling Chimp Haven to accept 25 more chimpanzees retired from government research. Currently, the sanctuary is home to 195 chimpanzees.

Chimp Haven is planning to build four new habitats in coming years so it can accept 100 additional chimpanzees. Willis Spraetz says a gala this weekend will help support the cost of ongoing care, which can be as much as $18,000 a year for one chimpanzee. The event, she says, will attract local supporters and many from across the country.

“We also have the Humane Society of the U.S. They’re all coming from Washington, D.C. We have people coming from the American Anti-Vivisection Society based in Pennsylvania. It will be lots of faces we’ve seen before and who we look forward to seeing again,” Willis Spraetz said.

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Credit Kate Archer Kent
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The Chimp Haven welcome center (backdrop) will have indoor/outdoor enclosures enabling the new chimpanzees to choose where they sleep and socialize.

The gala is a 20th anniversary celebration. It will be held at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino Saturday, Nov. 7. Retired Chimp Haven CEO Primatologist Linda Brent will receive the inaugural chimpanzee welfare award. She was one of the founders of Chimp Haven and served as its CEO for a decade, stepping down in 2012.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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