Retired game-show host and animal rights advocate Bob Barker is opening a new area for five HIV-infected chimpanzees at a sanctuary in northwestern Louisiana.
Located 25 miles southwest of Shreveport, La. in the Eddie D. Jones Nature Park in Caddo Parish, Chimp Haven opened its doors in Phase I to the first residents in April 2005.
The former host of "The Price Is Right" donated $380,000 to create space at the Chimp Haven in Keithville near Shreveport, and attended the dedication of the Bob Barker Chimpanzee Habitat on Thursday morning.
The animals came from a sanctuary in Texas that closed because of overcrowding and a lack of money. Other sanctuaries took the rest, but none would take the five because of their illness. They are named Doc, JoJo, Murphy, Flick and Pierre.
In a statement released ahead of the dedication, Barker said, "I have waited months for this occasion," remarks Barker. "After 30 years of being locked in cages, these chimpanzees now have the choice to lie in the grass and look up at the sky—day or night. They can climb trees and build nests. And best of all, they can do it with each other. I cannot wait to see them savor that freedom."
Barker said he learned about the animals from his friend Nancy Burnet, president of United Activists for Animal Rights. He made an initial donation of $230,000 in July of 2011, and provided the funds to care for the animals for a year.
Chimp Haven used the donation to create a two-acre home for the rescued chimps, launching the non-profit's plans to expand the facility to care for more rescue chimpanzees coming from the private sector. In addition to the chimps rescued from Texas, the facility has 126 other chimpanzees, most of the federally owned and retired from biomedical research.
Following the dedication, the chimpanzees made their debut, reaching across the moat surrounding their habitat, attempting to offer Barker "gifts" of leaves and toys.
Chimp Haven is comprised of 200 acres of forest-like surroundings which will allow the chimpanzees to live as if in the wild, with minimal human contact. A key component of Chimp Haven's program is to educate the public about endangered nonhuman primates and their needs for conservation in the wild and protection in captivity.
It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 chimpanzees in U.S. research facilities. There are also hundreds of privately owned chimpanzees who are considered unmanageable to keep as pets or performers who are also in need of a professionally run sanctuary.
Chimp Haven, The National Chimpanzee Sanctuary, is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide a permanent retirement sanctuary for chimpanzees no longer used for biomedical research, entertainment, or as pets.