A 2-minute video, filmed in April 2016, has emerged of the magical moment a dying chimpanzee, who had been unresponsive and refusing food and water, beaming with joy after recognizing her human friend who she had shared a deep bond since 1972.
When Jan van Hooff, emeritus professor behavioral biology at Utrecht University and co-founder of the Burgers colony, was informed she was fast approaching the end of her life, he came back to visit her and pay his last respects.
At first Mama, who was curled up in a ball, didn’t recognize Jan. It took a while before she became aware of his old friend’s presence. In the video, she can be seen reacting with pure joy when she realized who had come to see her one last time.
The ailing chimpanzee smiled in delight, stretched out her hand, touched his face, held the back of his neck, and brought his head down to hers stroking Jan’s head in greeting. Mama died just a week after giving her friend an emotional and a heartfelt farewell.
Watch the heartbreaking video below to see the amazing bond that can be forged between animals and humans:
The Burgers colony is famous as the basis of groundbreaking research involving primate behavior, resulting in the book Chimpanzee Politics by Frans De Waal, a behavioral scientist who studied the colony since 1974. After Mama’s death, Frans de Waal noted:
“She had an exceptionally strong and dominant personality, so that no man who wanted to come to power could do so around her. She also brought consolation when there were tensions and mediated conflicts. She will be sorely missed, also by me, because I have rarely seen such an admirable character in both humans and apes.”
— Gracie Carver (@TheGracieCarver) October 18, 2017