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Chimp Haven starts $5.1M expansion drive

Associated Press Published: November 10, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The national sanctuary for retired federal research chimpanzees in Keithville, La., hopes to raise $5.1 million to make room for 110 chimps being moved from a lab in New Iberia and to prepare for even more.

Spokeswoman Karen Allen said $2.6 million would create space for the federally owned chimps being moved from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center. The rest of the money would be used to add a quarantine building and housing for more animals at the sanctuary, where 123 already live.

Chimp Haven received some big gifts this year. Included were more than $600,000 to house and care for five chimpanzees infected with HIV, and a pledge of $13,000 annually in lifetime support for a surprise baby. Although chimps live an average of 45 years in the wild, their lifespan in captivity is about 60 years.

Unless medical or other problems prevent it, the chimps live in social groups as they would in the wild.

Healthy chimps rotate between big, moated play yards and adjacent habitats with trees for climbing and nesting. About 60 percent were infected with HIV, hepatitis C or other diseases for research; those chimps have play yards covered with mesh, Allen said.

The initial work would include finishing six play yards and an open-air enclosure left incomplete because construction costs skyrocketed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It also would add sleeping rooms to another area where there's already plenty of outdoor room to play, and add play yards to an area with more than enough bedrooms, Allen said.

The work will result in $1.2 million in annual spending and provide 16 new jobs, director Linda Brent said in a news release.

Much of that spending would buy local produce and hay for the chimps, assistant director Jennifer Whitaker said.

The National Institutes of Health has said it will send 10 of the animals to Chimp Haven and the rest to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute of San Antonio, where they will not be used for research. However, Whitaker said Chimp Haven could add more than 20 to existing groups and is hoping to do so.

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