Candy the Chimp, who lived at Dixie Landin’ amusement park in Baton Rouge, died Thursday, according to the CEO and President of Chimp Haven, a chimpanzee sanctuary in northern Louisiana where animal advocates were battling in court to move Candy.
Cathy Willis Spraetz, the president and CEO of Chimp Haven, said attorneys for Candy’s owner, Sam Haynes Jr., notified lawyers for her organization of Candy’s death.
Willis Spraetz had be scheduled for a deposition on Monday in the ongoing lawsuit to move Candy to the north Louisiana sanctuary.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national animal rights group representing Louisiana residents and groups, filed a lawsuit against Haynes and Dixie Landin’ in November 2015, alleging that Candy was “inhumanely” confined and neglected. Chimp Haven was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
John W. Perry Jr., an attorney for Haynes, declined to comment when contacted by telephone Friday night about Candy’s death, but offered to arrange a Monday in-person interview.
Willis Spraetz said she was surprised to hear of Candy’s death, especially after a primate veterinarian and a behavioral traumatologist from the haven saw Candy on Wednesday, the day before she died.
“They saw Candy and played with Candy,” Willis Spraetz said. “She was very active and engaged. … (She) looked like a chimp half her age.”
She said it is unusual for a female chimp to be healthy one day and to die the next and she believes a necropsy, the term used for an animal autopsy, should be done to investigate cause of death.
During the legal battle over whether Candy should move to the haven or stay at Dixie Landin’, both sides called on experts to offer their opinions on what would be best for the chimp.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells said the organization is “heartbroken” over the death.
“This tragedy highlights the urgency of similar cases of animals in captivity,” Wells said. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund has had pending litigation for six years to release Tony, a 16-year-old tiger in potentially declining health held captive at a gas station less than an hour away from where Candy was held.”
The Haynes family has owned Candy since she was 6 months old. She was more than 50 years old when she died this week. She previously performed at the now-closed Fun Fair Park in Baton Rouge and on the old “Buckskin Bill” show before she moved to Dixie Landin’ in the late 1990s.
In court filings, attorneys for Haynes had argued that the best thing for Candy was to allow her to live out the remainder of her life at Dixie Landin’ because the chimp identified with members of the Haynes family as her troop.
They said a previous attempt to introduce Candy into a troop of chimps at the Baton Rouge Zoo was an “absolute failure” as Candy kept escaping and was teaching the other chimps how to flee
Dixie Landin’ is an amusement part on I-10 and Highland Road next to Blue Bayou Water Park. It’s website says it has 29 rides, including four roller coasters. Feature attractions include the “Ragin’ Cajun,” a looping roller coaster that drops from 14 stories, a log flume ride and Giant Wheel.