LA-area sponsor for surprise baby chimp

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baby chimp Natalie

Baby chimp Natalie (Photo credit: Chimp Haven)

KEITHVILLE, La. (AP) – A surprise baby at the national sanctuary for research chimps in Louisiana has a lifetime sponsor and a name. Anita Hirsh, a longtime Chimp Haven supporter from the Los Angeles area, pledged $13,000 a year to “adopt” the baby now named for Hirsh’s late mother, Natalie, said sanctuary spokeswoman Karen Allen.

“My mother loved animals and nature. I believe that, while she could have been surprised that I would adopt a chimpanzee, she would also have been amused and very pleased,” a news release quoted Ms. Hirsh.

The federal government covers three-quarters of the cost for animals used in federal research, but not for babies or chimps that were privately owned before coming to Chimp Haven, near Keithville in northwest Louisiana.

Baby Natalie was born Aug. 13 to 42-year-old Ginger. Sanctuary officials suspect the father was Conan, who fathered another chimp born on Valentine’s Day and one born in 2007, but the paternity test is expected to take months.

Every pregnancy was a surprise. Each male must have a vasectomy before coming to Chimp Haven, and Conan had a second after the 2007 birth. After the Valentine’s Day birth, every sexually active male chimp in a group with females got another, more complex, vasectomy and the females were put on birth control.

The 125 chimps at Chimp Haven live in social groups of up to 20 animals, as they do in the wild.

“Chimp Haven does an incredible job providing a home for the chimpanzees who need humane care and the company of other chimpanzees.  And they do it with surprisingly modest funding,” Hirsh said. “So when the financially unexpected – an unplanned baby – occurred, I felt it was incumbent upon those of us who have supported Chimp Haven to step up to the plate and take care of this baby.”

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