Chimp Haven Fosters a New Beginning for Two Staff Members Who Met & Fell in Love at the Louisiana Sanctuary

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Chimp Haven Fosters a New Beginning for Two Staff Members Who Met & Fell in Love at the Louisiana Sanctuary

Amber Brooks Amber Brooks
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The Short Version: Chimp Haven is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the life and happiness of chimpanzees in the U.S. Its 200-acre property in Louisiana currently houses over 270 chimps who are cared for by a team of passionate animal lovers. Since its founding in 2005, Chimp Haven has made a difference in many lives by fostering a joyful environment. For instance, Rebekah and Mark met while caring for chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, and they later got married at the sanctuary.

In 2009, Rebekah moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, to work as a caregiver at Chimp Haven because she felt passionate about the nonprofit’s mission to shelter chimpanzees. She was a single mother and didn’t know anyone in the city at the time, but the staff quickly became an extended family to her.

Photo of Rebekah and Mark, a married couple who work at Chimp Haven

Rebekah and Mark got married in 2012 at the nonprofit sanctuary’s observation deck.

A caregiver named Mark shared similar passions and interests as Rebekah, so they naturally bonded with one another as they worked toward common goals at the shelter. In May 2010, Rebekah started dating Mark, and they built a serious relationship while working side by side at Chimp Haven.

On September 1, 2012, Rebekah married Mark in a small ceremony on Chimp Haven’s observation deck. They’re now the proud parents of three young boys.

Although they now work in different departments at Chimp Haven, Mark and Rebekah continue to collaborate and have fun at their jobs caring for chimpanzees. They even threw a baby gender reveal party by giving blue treats and toys to the chimps. The couple’s shared professional and personal experiences have helped them connect on a deeper level, and Rebekah said she enjoys having a romantic partner who can understand her work and its unique challenges.

“We find that sharing such an important aspect of our lives helps us relate to each other’s joys and frustrations,” Mark and Rebekah told us. “Sometimes being around over 270 chimps is quieter than being around our three rambunctious children.”

A Close-Knit Team Inspired by Environmental Values

Chimp Haven provides a nurturing environment where passionate animal lovers, like Mark and Rebekah, can work with chimpanzees and build fruitful relationships while they make a difference.

Photo of Mark and Rebekah's gender reveal party

The chimps joined the festivities at Rebekah and Mark’s gender reveal party in 2017.

Since 2005, the national chimpanzee sanctuary (commonly referred to as Chimp Haven) has cared for hundreds of chimpanzees. This sanctuary in Northwest Louisiana is currently home to over 270 chimpanzees, many of whom come to the nonprofit after being retired from biomedical research.

Chimp Haven welcomed its first chimp residents, Rita and Teresa, in April 2005, and it has been growing its population ever since.

At Chimp Haven, the chimps can just be chimps and enjoy life while under the watchful eyes of trained staff members and volunteers. More than 40 employees contribute to the overall care of the chimpanzees. Chimp Haven’s attending veterinarian Dr. Raven Jackson-Jewett has been profiled by Forbes as one of the few female African-American chief veterinarians in the U.S.

Some employees have backgrounds in veterinary care, while others have experience fundraising for nonprofits, and everyone brings those skills to the table to make life better for their chimpanzee residents.

Chimp Haven employs highly qualified staff members who can help the resident chimpanzees have a carefree and healthy lifestyle in a safe environment.

Photos of Chimp Haven chimpanzees

The Chimp Haven team cares for over 270 chimpanzees on its 200-acre property.

Once a retiree arrives at the sanctuary, the medical team conducts a thorough physical, and animal care staff members observe the chimp’s mood, behavior, and personality. Together, the Chimp Haven team puts together a customized health plan to get the chimp feeling great. The ultimate goal is to see the chimp happily integrated into the chimpanzee communities at the shelter.

“Chimp Haven is committed to providing the highest standards of care to each one of our residents,” Mark and Rebekah said. “Each chimpanzee is a member of our family, too.”

Anyone can join this tight-knit team and make a difference in the health and happiness of chimpanzees. Chimp Haven has fostered a welcoming space for both chimps and human who love chimps, and it continues to grow as more people lend a helping hand.

An Ongoing Expansion Campaign Will Help Support Chimp Life

Rebekah and Mark have been at the Chimp Haven for over a decade, and they have seen the organization gradually expand its efforts to support chimpanzees. The sanctuary aims to provide chimps with everything they need to be happy. That means fostering opportunities to play, explore, climb, and grow.

As Rebekah and Mark said, “The Chimp Haven staff considers it a great privilege and responsibility to provide former research chimpanzees with the happy, healthy lives they deserve — what Chimp Haven refers to as ‘The Chimp Life.’”

Chimp Haven has many projects underway, including a $20 million expansion project. The expansion campaign, which is already underway, will add new open-air corrals, veterinary suites, and forested habitats to Chimp Haven. These new areas will give the sanctuary enough space to house the more than 200 chimpanzees still living in research facilities and awaiting transition to retirement.

Looking to the future, the Chimp Haven team is preparing to grow its chimp family and have a greater impact on the surrounding Shreveport community.

Throughout the year, Chimp Haven reaches out to local animal lovers and raises awareness about everything they can do to help chimpanzees. The nonprofit invites people to become invested in this mission by organizing social events and fundraisers.

Locals should mark Chimpanzee Discovery Days on the calendar if they want to explore this sanctuary and see the chimpanzees loving life. Four times a year, the Chimp Haven opens its doors to the public and gives guests a chance to observe the 270+ chimpanzees in their habitats. These educational events feature educational talks about the chimps’ personalities and veterinary care. Visitors can choose to take part in hayride behind-the-scenes tours as well.

Going to a Chimpanzee Discovery Day is a great date activity for animal lovers in Shreveport and beyond, and it’s also a great way to support everything Chimp Haven does on a day-to-day basis.

“Each day brings new experiences,” Mark and Rebekah said. “Chimpanzees are so intelligent and complex that new adventures and challenges await us each day.”

Chimp Haven’s Mission Brought Mark & Rebekah Together

Chimp Haven fosters exploration, playtime, and relaxation, and that fun-loving environment brings a smile to those who work there. Volunteers, interns, and staff members of all backgrounds can find a common purpose at Chimp Haven. Rebekah and Mark bonded years ago as they cared for the chimpanzees, and they continue to build on that relationship to this day.

For over a decade, Chimp Haven has sheltered hundreds of chimpanzees and promoted Chimp Life with tireless determination and love. The nonprofit employs many positive, intelligent, and compassionate people who care about the welfare of chimpanzees born or raised in human care. These individuals work as a unit to ensure the chimpanzees at the sanctuary have a high quality of life, and that’s something everyone can get behind.

“Throughout the years, we have met many people who share our dedication to Chimp Haven’s mission,” Mark and Rebekah said, “and we have enjoyed working with many personalities, both human and chimpanzee!”