Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary

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Sue Perkins and the Chimp Sanctuary


Being dressed as a giant banana while playing a steel drum probably isn’t what Sue Perkins imagined she’d be doing when she visited a Louisiana sanctuary for chimps that have spent their entire lives in medical research laboratories. Being drenched in water spat at her by alpha male Pierre was a surprise too.

Many of these creatures were deliberately infected with diseases such as hepatitis and HIV and this, along with years of living in institutions, means they can’t be returned to the wild.

Much of this documentary is joyous: seeing captive-born chimps climbing trees and a group of males meeting females for the first time is magical. But its history is dark and having seen undercover footage of conditions in one of the labs where her favourite chimp, Jill, lived, Sue angrily confronts a government representative and asks whether he thinks the medical advances to human health have been worth it.


After a recent change in American law, decades of testing on chimpanzees has been brought to an end. In this programme, Sue Perkins meets Jill, Whitney, Paula-Jean, Tessa, Martha and Ariah as they settle in at US national sanctuary Chimp Haven after an 800-mile journey from a laboratory in New Mexico to rural Louisiana. Sue also meet a representative of the government agency responsible for federal chimpanzee testing to find out if they think the medical advances to human health have been worth it.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Sue Perkins
Director Tom Currie
Editor Martin Thompson
Executive Producer Sophie Leonard
Producer Francis Longhurst