The morning began like so many others for the last 10 chimpanzees stranded at the shuttered Wildlife Waystation in the Angeles National Forest: whiling away the hours, spinning around and around, pushing toys across concrete floors and peering through the bars of their cages.
Three years after the refuge abruptly closed due to financial difficulties, the chimps taken in from biomedical research labs were the only creatures left in the 160-acre facility’s eerily quiet labyrinth of empty cages and pens that once housed more than 500 exotic animals, just north of Los Angeles city limits.
But a big change was coming for these chimps who had never climbed a tree or galloped across grass and they knew it — at least judging from their shrill cries of “OO-OO-OO-AH!”
The scene unfolded when caretakers used monkey chow biscuits to coax eight of the chimps into special shipping containers. The pens were then loaded onto a truck and trailer specially outfitted to transport them 1,600 miles to Chimp Haven in Keithville, La., a 200-acre facility caring for over 300 chimpanzees, most of them retired from research labs.
They arrived late Sunday — weary primate refugees clutching travel blankets emblazoned with pink hearts.
The other two chimps at the Wildlife Waystation were expected to be transported to Chimp Haven within a few weeks.