Animal Care Director, Kathleen Taylor,
“It’s our opportunity to give back…”
“We have begun the process of bringing the retired NIH-owned chimpanzees to the sanctuary,” said Kathleen Taylor, Director of Animal Care at Chimp Haven. Taylor has a masters in organizational psychology, and a desire to make a better home for chimpanzees who are released from serving the research goals of humans.
The National Chimpanzee Sanctuary, known as Chimp Haven, located in Keithville, Louisiana, will be receiving another 50 chimpanzees from the federal government. These newly “retired” chimpanzees will join the nearly 200 chimps that reside at 13600 Chimpanzee Place, a 200- acre forested reserve just south of Shreveport in the Eddie D. Jones Nature Park.
“This includes not only the 50 who were recently retired,” Taylor said, “but also more than 300 retired in June 2013. We are currently home to more than 190 chimpanzees and over the next few years, with the help of generous donors, look forward to expanding Chimp Haven facilities and infrastructure by adding several new large forested habitats and indoor housing for future retirees.”
Taylor, whose undergraduate is in biological sciences also has a master’s degree in psychology, is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society of Organizational and Industrial Psychology. On occasion she uses some of what she has learned to help Chimp Haven deal with its growing pains.
Taylor is one of a complex group of professionals that care for the chimps and make sure of the quality of life of the animals. “Our goal here is to make sure we are providing more to the chimpanzees than just the basics,” said Taylor. “They can receive good nutrition and good medical care in other places, but here we look at the chimps to improve their well-being overall. We look at the chimps from a holistic perspective, and try to create opportunities for them to live like a chimp in the wild. This is so important to their well-being.”
The newest group chimpanzees, some of the last held for biomedical research by the National Institute of Health, received their ticket to freedom when the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (W&FS) declared last June that captive chimpanzees deserved the same protection as wild chimpanzees. Chimps living in the wild have been on the endangered species list since 1990.
The W&FS decision was said to be a “hard-fought victory” by animal rights activists. The change began in 2011 when the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council concluded that chimps were not necessary for most biomedical research. In a news briefing in November, the National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins said it was the end of a controversial era of research on chimpanzees.
Chimp Haven was selected in 2002 by NIH to become the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Chimps retired to the Haven are protected from any invasive research or any research that requires them to be socially separated from their group.
Chimp Haven founder, Linda Brent, points to the critical value of a humane place for these chimpanzees to retire, many who are older and some who are ill. “This really is the only place in the country that provides naturally forested habitats that are four or five acres large, where the chimpanzees can display the types of behaviors that wild chimpanzees display,” Brent has said. “That is just amazing and it’s worked very well for the chimpanzees here.”
Dr. Raven Jackson, Chimp Haven Attending Veterinarian said, “We meet within our behavioral management team, we meet within our veterinary team, we meet within our animal care team, and we devise plans for the best options for each and every chimpanzee. It takes a group effort to make sure we provide the best life for the chimpanzees here.”
Chimp Haven has a distinguished board of directors including Katherine Leighty, PhD, from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Frans De Waal, PhD, from Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University.
The new federal guidelines have given hope to an animal rights group who filed a lawsuit in November to free a 50 year-old chimpanzee from her 40 years of solitary life in a Baton Rouge amusement park.
Members of the Animal Legal Defense Fund are declaring that the solitary existence of the chimpanzee, “Candy,” violates the Endangered Species Act. Candy has been alone for 40 years, a condition the animal rights advocates feel is painful and punishing, and treatment has been condemned by world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and comparative psychologist Dr. Roger Fouts.
If the court finds that Candy deserves her freedom, the staff at Chimp Haven has said they are ready to accept her at Chimp Haven.
Katheen Taylor feels that seeing the chimpanzees express their true social nature is one of the great rewards of her job as Animal Care Director.
“I wanted to personally thank all those who have supported Chimp Haven in the past and those who will give in the future,” she said. “If you have ever seen chimpanzees laugh, play, climb trees, or disappear into the forest just because they can make that choice, you have witnessed the sweet results of Chimp Haven’s staff’s hard work and passion. Providing the care and retirement for these chimpanzees who unwillingly gave their lives for our benefit is true humanity and I am eternally grateful for your support.”
“Over the last 20 years, my understanding and appreciation of humanity has been deepened through exposure to primates.”
“These chimps have served humans for so many years, and unwillingly at that. Now it’s our opportunity to give back to them,” Taylor said.
A chimpanzee living at Chimp Haven, one of many “retired” from service in biomedical research.
(Photo courtesy of Chimp Haven.)