Home News-Free Christmas comes early at the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary

Christmas comes early at the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary


KEITHVILLE, La. – Holiday treats wrapped in brightly colored paper kept the chimpanzees busy and their bellies full when gifts of tasty fruit were showered on the residents of Chimp Haven as part of a Christmas-inspired enrichment fun.

“Just like many of our kids at home, the chimps love tearing into presents in festive wrapping, and fruit is always a welcomed treat for the chimpanzees,” said Rana Smith, Chimp Haven president and CEO. “Gift-wrapping some of the chimps’ favorite foods allows us create a novel, enriching experience that helps keep their minds active and their bodies healthy.”

To create the gift packages, staff members at the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary placed fruit cocktail into recycled boxes before wrapping treats in holiday paper. The packages were then tossed into the chimpanzees’ forested habitat for them to discover and devour.

“Most of the chimpanzees jumped right into the activity, ripping into the gift boxes and nibbling away at the treats they uncovered,” Smith said. “Some chimps pressed their faces deep inside the boxes to get every last morsel, while Pearl chose to stash her gifts to open after all of her friends were done with theirs.”

Chimp Haven serves fresh produce to the chimpanzees daily, and caretakers always look for ways to provide additional enrichment opportunities that simulate exploration and discovery activities they would encounter in the wild.

“While chimpanzees in the wild obviously wouldn’t be tearing into Christmas presents, they would be on the lookout for new discoveries, and the caretakers at Chimp Haven try to provide a sanctuary life that best emulates those opportunities,” Smith said.

Chimp Haven is a private, nonprofit refuge on 200 acres of forested land in Northwest Louisiana, and home to more than 330 chimps retired from biomedical research. The organization is currently working to complete a crucial sanctuary expansion campaign, which will allow it to welcome more chimpanzees to retirement at Chimp Haven. For information, visit chimphaven.org/expansion/ . To take a virtual tour, visit chimphaven.org/visit/digital-tour/

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