KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) - Chimp Haven in Keithville, LA is home to nearly 200 retired chimps. It is the exclusive sanctuary for the retirement of animals previously used in federal testing. The property spans across 200 forested acres, donated by Caddo Parish.
With the help of a staff of 43, the highly intelligent creatures lead a life of retirement by enjoying the freedom to choose to stay inside, or play in a natural habitat. However, when severe weather strikes, the staff has taken steps to ensure the chimps are kept out of harms way.
Cathy Willis Spraetz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Chimp Haven, says the chimps have been trained with positive reinforcement - a bell and some extra treats - to move inside when severe weather is looming.
"The inside housing is all concrete. Very thick walls. If there was going to be a tornado, that's where I would want to be," says Willis Spraetz.
Spraetz says it is remarkable to see the chimps react to the bell, especially the new comers to the haven, who follow suit with those in their hierarchy.
"To see them respond, after our care staff have spent the time teaching them to come in, and that cow bell is the signal. It's really a testament to how intelligent they really are," says Willis Spraetz.
Spraetz says the chimps don't like like rain to begin with, and they can't swim. So, once it starts raining, many decide to move indoors.