The world’s largest sanctuary for chimpanzees is located in Keithville, Louisiana. Chimp Haven recently gained that status and continues to grow.
Lindsey Peters is a local girl from Shreveport who starting volunteering after college at Chimp Haven. She loved it and now has been working there for nine years.
“Being a caregiver is actually pretty cool. We have 255 chimps and I take care of half of them so it’s a big deal to have the responsibility of taking care of that many chimps,” Peters said.
The day begins with fruit, lots of fruit, plus the veggies. As Lindsey tosses the fruit pieces to the chimps inside the enclosure, the chimps will communicate with her. They make noises, wave their hands, and point at you to let you know they want fruit. It’s kind of similar to going to a Mardi Gras parade.
“Everyday they get fruits and vegetables for one time a day,” Peters said.
There’s always a barrier between the caregivers and chimps, because one chimp has the strength of seven men. Plus their social groups in the wild wouldn’t include humans.
“So we want to make sure they are as close to the wild as possible,” Peters said.
Now the largest chimp sanctuary in the world, Chimp Haven houses chimps retired from biomedical research. As caregivers, their roles are to help them transition.
“We look to see what fits them and we go from there. We just let them be chimp which consists of making choices for themselves. They can be with their friends, they can be by themselves. They have the freedom to come and go by themselves,” Peters said.
When a new chimp comes in, they’re first quarantine and caregivers analyze their personalities to see if they can live in a group or need to be alone. She said each chimp has their own personality.
“There’s a special bond that you have with them that you might not have with a dog or cat,” Peters said.
It’s that special bond she said help drive her to be their caregiver.
Chimp Haven is constructing a new and larger part to their facility to house more chimpanzees.
Tours are open to the public on certain days. Visit their website for details.