A zoo is a happy place for visiting families. Parents and children alike would be able to enjoy the sight of many animals up close in their enclosures while the staff makes sure that nothing goes wrong. However, accidents occur, and they happen when we least expect it, making the whole enjoyable vibe become disarrayed in a split second. This is what happened at Detroit zoo 30 years ago when a chimp suddenly slipped down into the moat.
The unfortunate incident at the chimpanzee enclosure.
Families were crowding at the newly opened chimpanzee exhibit in Detroit Zoo in 1990, including Rick Swope and his family. He brought his wife and three children to the enclosure, expecting a fun family time. Everyone was having a blissful time watching the chimps swing and leap back and forth from branch to branch. Watching the splendid sight would have washed everybody’s worries away, painting a bunch of smiles to the crowd’s faces.
Everything was going well until something unexpected happened.
Jo-Jo, one of the chimps in the exhibit was playing roughhouse and chase with another male chimp in the patch of grass beside the water moat. There was an obvious size difference between the two, and Jo-Jo has that disadvantage.
As they continued their skirmish, Jo-Jo ran toward the trees in which urged the larger ape to chase him. The chase went on but the larger chimp eventually pinned down Jo-Jo and led to him trying to escape. During the struggle, Jo-Jo unexpectedly fell down the moat, causing the audience to exclaim in horror.
People froze, including the staff, leaving the drowning chimp helpless in the situation.
Chimps cannot swim and the moat was deep enough to get the small chimp to drown. The whole event was shocking and worrisome, but the astonishment rendered the people unable to act, including the zoo staff.
“Everyone in the whole place was just standing around watching this monkey drown,” Swope told the Deseret News.
Jo-Jo was able to hold his head up in the water but he was getting exhausted trying to keep still. After some time, he slipped back into the water.
A man from the crowd jumped into the moat to save the little guy.
“When he went down the second time, I knew I had to do something,” Swope bravely stated.
The zoo immediately saw Swope attempting to jump over the fence and so they went to caution him about the dangers of slipping into the ape’s territory. However, Swope heeded no mind to their warning and proceeded to dive into the moat to save the drowning Jo-Jo.
He swam to the chimp’s location, and the moment he got close to him, Jo-Jo immediately grabbed Swope’s arm, desperate to cling to life. Swope then propelled himself back to the surface while wrapping one of his arms around Jo-Jo. Swope almost let Jo-Jo slip back into the water, but he was able to act swiftly, grabbing the chimp and bringing him back to the surface safe and sound. Swope’s heroic attempt ended well, with everyone behind the fences cheering for him.
Swope’s heroic act is something people today should know.
Even though it’s been 30 years since the incident, Rick Swope’s heroic act and undeniable love for animals is timeless. Hopefully, this story will continue to serve as a good example in the next three decades.
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Source: Youtube/Animal Planet