Six Chimps at Center of Custody Battle

Deep in the woods of northwest Louisiana, hundreds of chimps are living out their retirement in ease at an animal sanctuary called Chimp Haven, after being used for scientific research.

But now six of the primate residents are at the center of a custody battle.

The chimps were moved to Chimp Haven after living in allegedly horrible conditions at another sanctuary. A judge recently ordered the chimps back to their original home, but their new caretakers say they won't let them go.

The six chimps, known as the "Keithville Krewe" after their new hometown, lived previously at a nonprofit sanctuary called Primarily Primates in San Antonio, Texas.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shot an undercover video at the facility, where it says it found overcrowding and substandard conditions. So law enforcement stepped in.

Nine chimps were rescued; the six that survived are at Chimp Haven and thriving, according to its caretakers.

"You don't play if you're unhappy, and these chimps play all the time," said Linda Brent, the president and director of Chimp Haven.

Chimps Feel Pain Too

Primarily Primates now says that the Texas facility is under new management and that it wants the chimps back.

Primarily Primate officials argued the chimps legally belong to them and a judge agreed, ordering the Keithville Krewe back to Texas.

"They consider them property, and that's not how we view these chimpanzees," Brent said. "They have emotions, they have feelings and they're doing well here."

Studies have found that chimps share 98 percent of human DNA, and scientists claim some chimps are able to communicate as many as 3,000 words, including their feelings.

To that end, advocates argue that if the chimps are sent back to Texas they could become scared or anxious, even depressed.

"Chimps can definitely suffer from traumatic events just like humans," Brent said.

Chimp Haven is appealing the judge's decision. Primarily Primates would not speak to "Good Morning America," but issued a statement saying, "Chimp Haven should let the chimpanzees get on with their lives and be returned to their permanent refuge as soon as possible."

The chimps did not comment, but seemed blissfully unaware of the legal battle swirling around them.