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October 14, 2013

A Better Life

For many years chimps Penny, Ladybird, Jerry, and Karen were used in research and spent most of their lives in cages. Thankfully, they have put that life behind them.

Kind News magazine, October/November 2013

Penny, Ladybird, Jerry, and Karen can now do whatever they feel like. Michelle Riley/for The HSUS

Penny makes her way out to the play yard, joining Ladybird, Jerry, and Karen. They sit together quietly, enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company. They may do a little exploring or climbing or just spend time grooming one another. It’s their choice to do whatever they feel like—and they’ve earned that chance.

Life wasn’t always this pleasant for these four chimpanzees. For many years they were used in research and spent most of their lives in cages. Thankfully, they have put that life behind them.

In 2011, the chimpanzees left the research center for good. But because of their history, they wouldn’t be able to survive if released in the wild. They need time and a safe place to relearn what it means to be a chimpanzee.

Forest Friends

Did you know? Chimpanzees belong to a group of primates called great apes, as do gorillas, orangutans, bonobos—even humans!

The four chimps are among more than 100 others living at Chimp Haven. The national sanctuary for retired research chimpanzees is on 200 acres in Louisiana. There, the animals can live out their final years in peace and comfort. They can climb trees, build nests, and form friendships with other chimps. In other words, they can behave much like chimpanzees would behave in the wild.

For many years, people have been working to end the use of chimpanzees in research. For Penny, Ladybird, Jerry, Karen, and others, that hard work has paid off. Recently, the National Institutes of Health announced a plan to retire nearly 90 percent of government-owned research chimps to sanctuary.

More than a Motto

The staff motto at Chimp Haven is “we’re here to serve them.” In addition to food and medical care, staff also give the chimps fun things to do. Scattering seeds and other goodies around the sanctuary lets the chimps forage (search) for their food, a behavior they would do in the wild.

Brent, another chimp resident of Chimp Haven, created a piece of artwork that won The HSUS's Chimpanzee Art Contest

Treat-filled toys, like the ones made by the Humane Heroes on page 3, challenge the apes’ problem-solving abilities. And painting with watercolors, listening to music, fishing for goodies out of an artificial termite mound—even watching puppet shows—keep them busy. Most of all, the chimps live with their companions and are surrounded by people who love them.

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