Mama, a 59-year-old chimpanzee revered as the matriarch of a renowned chimpanzee community, faced a dire health crisis.
In a poignant and heartrending video, she grappled with her inability to eat and an unmistakable sense that her life was drawing to a close. It was in this fragile moment that she received a visit from her longtime caregiver and steadfast friend. What unfolded is a profoundly moving and bittersweet interaction, a testament to the deep bond shared between animals and humans.
The Royal Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands, reached out to Mama’s former caregiver, Jan van Hooff, an emeritus professor of behavioral biology at Utrecht University and a co-founder of the Burgers colony. Jan’s connection with Mama dates back to 1972, and he had seen her just a week before she peacefully passed away due to old age in April 2016. Though it took some time for Mama to recognize Jan’s presence, his familiar voice and gentle touch stirred something within her. The moment of recognition that followed is a profoundly touching experience that you won’t want to miss.
This video captures an exceptionally touching encounter that underscores the profound emotional connections that chimpanzees, like Mama, can form with humans. It dispels any doubts about the capacity of these remarkable animals to establish deep bonds of affection.
Mama played a vital and influential role within the colony, contributing to groundbreaking research on primate behavior documented in “Chimpanzee Politics” by Frans de Waal, who diligently studied the colony from 1974 onwards.