A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Bob Barker to Chimps: “Come On Down!”

Bob Barker with Chimp Haven president Linda Brent

Last year, he donated $380,000 for a new habitat at Chimp Haven. And last week, the irrepressible Bob Barker flew down to the sanctuary in Louisiana to cut the ribbon — or rather to pick up the microphone and call out to five newly arrived chimpanzees: “Come on down!”

And that’s exactly what they did.

“They came down the hill through the timber, some of them running on their hind legs. Just running,” Barker said after the ceremony. “They were so happy. One climbed a tree clear to the top. They played with balls and they ate bananas. I had a lump in my throat. I almost burst into tears, I was so happy when I saw it.”

“They came down the hill through the timber, some of them running on their hind legs. Just running.”

JoJo, Flick, and Pierre, who are 36 years old, Murphy, who is 42, and Doc, 38, will live the rest of their lives in the Bob Barker Chimpanzee Habitat. They all spent their earlier lives at research laboratories where they were infected with HIV. When they were retired, they went to a sanctuary in Texas, where they had a small room and outdoor area. The sanctuary then ran into money and overcrowding problems. At Chimp Haven they’ll have more than two acres.

Despite their age and treatment, the chimps are all in good shape. “Because of their age, they are considered geriatric males,”Chimp Haven veterinarian Raven Jackson said. “But they are a very, very healthy, robust group.”

In the few days before the opening ceremony, the new arrivals had a chance to get acquainted with their new digs. Doc built a nest in a tree, which suggests that he was probably caught in the wild as a youngster since chimpanzees learn to build nests from their older families.

About 50 of the other 129 animals at Chimp Haven also have HIV. They don’t develop AIDS, but they can transmit the virus to humans, so staff wear gloves and face shields when in contact with them.

During the ceremony, Barker pulled a check for $120,000 out of his pocket and handed to Chimp Haven director Dr. Linda Brent. “I thought $380,000 was such an odd number,” he joked. His donation has not only made this extension possible, but will also provide for the chimps for their first two years there.