Chimpanzees are amazingly intelligent but they can also be extraordinarily dangerous. These apes are very territorial and have the muscle to back it up: they’re seven times stronger than humans. However, there’s a price to be paid for being so muscular: chimpanzees can’t swim. They’re big-boned yet have very little body fat. If the water is deep enough, a chimp will simply drown. If you ever find yourself being chased by an angry chimpanzee, this knowledge could save your life! But could you ever imagine yourself deliberately jumping into a chimp enclosure at a zoo?
That’s what Rick Swope did. In 1990, he and his family went to the Detroit Zoo to see its newly opened chimpanzee exhibit. Jojo the chimp was being chased around by another, more aggressive resident of the enclosure. This is normal enough, but then Jojo slipped and fell into the exhibit’s protective moat.
Swope described what happened: “This chimp had his hands up and his head was sticking out of the water. He was looking at the crowd. It was like he wanted someone to rescue him.” He realized that if nobody did anything, Jojo would drown. Despite warnings from zoo staff, Swope jumped over the fence and dove into the water. It was quite a struggle, but he eventually managed to get Jojo up onto the grass, saving the chimpanzee’s life. Meanwhile, another chimp was hustling over to see what was going on, but fortunately for Rick Swope, he was able to get out of the enclosure before the other ape caught up with him.
This dramatic story was caught on videotape and aired on Animal Planet in a segment called “Untamed and Uncut — Chimp Rescue.” We’ve posted the video for you below.
What did you think of Rick Swope’s decision to risk death or injury to save an otherwise doomed chimpanzee? Brave or kind of crazy? Tell us what you think in the comments at Facebook. Be sure to like and share, too.