Rick Swope planned for a great family day with his wife and three children at the Detroit Zoo. The Swope family went to the new chimpanzee exhibit. It was a favorite for his kids, so they had hung out to watch the fascinating chimps for about thirty minutes. As they were about to leave when Rick heard a splash in the chimpanzee exhibit.
A 135 pound male chimpanzee named Jo-Jo had fallen into the surrounding moat and was drowning.
Rick Swope’s well-deserved bravery is being recognized.
The zoo patrons and employees were watching the drowning but did not move to help Jo-Jo. Chimps are known for being aggressive and Jo-Jo seem unreachable because of the fear of Jo-Jo and the surrounding chimps. Rick Swope could not let this happen. He made his way over the four foot fence and jumped into the water to save Jo-Jo.
“Everyone in the whole place was just standing around watching this monkey drown … When he went down the second time I knew I had to do something,” Swope explained.
Chimps cannot float, so they can drown very easily. It is body fat that helps humans and animals have the ability to float. Chimpanzee’s have a very small amount of body fat, which makes them sink in water instead of float. Rick did not know why Jo-Jo was drowning, he only knew that Jo-Jo needed help and no one else was stepping up.
Rick’s hero instinct took over.
Rick grabbed Jo-Jo around the stomach and started to drag the chimpanzee back to the shoreline. Rick was hoping the pressure on Jo-Jo’s stomach would help pump any water out of Jo-Jo’s insides. Jo-Jo weighed 135 but was heavy weight in the water as Rick carried him. Another challenge was the water was six feet deep. It was going to be hard work to safely rescue Jo-Jo.
Rick was risking his life with every second he stayed in the chimpanzee exhibit.
“When I finally got him up to the bank and I could hold him up there, he wasn’t moving. He was lifeless but he was looking at me when I got him turned around. So, I knew he was alive,” Rick explained.
Rick waited until Jo-Jo was strong enough to stay on the bank on his own before starting his own trek to safety.
Rick’s bravery and gut instincts saved Jo-Jo’s life. The zookeepers called his actions as reckless, which they were, but they were also very brave. A female chimp had already drowned in the very same water earlier that year. Jo-Jo’s fate would have been the same if Rick Swope did not jump into the exhibit and save him. Jo-Jo and Rick both safely escaped the moment of terror and daring rescue and lived to tell the tale.
In Rick’s case, for decades to come.
If you are wondering if Rick’s family was upset about his risky rescue, they were not.
“They’re glad I went in and got him … They wouldn’t expect anything less from their dad,” Rick stated.
Watch the daring rescue right below.
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