Friendship
Woman gets emotional after reuniting with chimpanzees she rescued over 20 years ago
She had rescued them from a horrible lab to a life of freedom and love.
Michael Dabu
03.29.22

According to The Conversation, humans are the smartest species of primates. In fact, human intelligence is the only contributing factor that’s setting us apart from other species of primates.

With that being said, it is possible that we share some characteristics with them, right?

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However, if we are known to be different in intelligence, then not by emotions. Let us take chimpanzees as examples, like us, they can also feel love, pain, sorrow, and a lot more.

An unbreakable bond!

This beautiful story of friendship between a human and a group of chimpanzees will surely make your tears roll down your cheeks. A true picture of love that’s unforgotten even after over two decades.

It’s a rare relationship between a human and a group of primates. Truth be told, it’s something that’s hard to find even in our own kind.

Going back to where they truly belong.

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In 1974, a group of chimpanzees was about to embrace freedom for the very first time in a long time. They were set to be released to a sanctuary in Southern Florida.

These poor animals were caged behind cold bars, had not been sunkissed, and imprisoned in dark gloomy rooms. They were taken away from their natural habitat and used as guinea pigs for medical research.

They waited for six long years before going back to the outside world where they can freely live as they please. That time, the long wait was finally over, however, there was one big problem…

These once caged chimpanzees were too scared to be out in the wild.

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The physiological stress must’ve been so traumatizing that they were too afraid to come out in the open. The chimpanzees had a caretaker, Linda Koebner, an animal behaviorist who was just 23 years old at that time.

Koebner said in a segment from the 1999 documentary ‘The Wisdom of the Wild‘, “They were terrified to get out of the security of their transport cage.”

“Whether it was afraid to step on the grass, they hadn’t been on anything but hard bars for years, or just the feel of the wind and the sun. They just huddled in the doorways and wouldn’t come out,” she added.

Her love and dedication propelled her to be successful on her mission.

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The chimps were uncomfortable stepping on the grass, they were already used to being behind cold bars and cages. But this only encouraged Koebner to convince them to embrace their new temporary home.

“Over time we coaxed them, and Doll was right up the tree.” Koebner said. “But some of the others had never tasted any kind of freedom since they were infants riding on their mother’s back, and they had been in these little boxes for years and years.”

She dedicated 4 years of her life to educating the freed animals.

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In particular, there was a young male named Sparky, a female named Swing, and Doll, a six-year-old chimp. She spent countless nights and days, she provided them comfort whenever they needed one.

More than just a decent shelter and regular supply of food, they needed Koebner to be there for them. It’s as if they felt safest whenever she was around.

Sadly, she had to be away, indefinitely.

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Koebner being back was everyone’s guess and no one was able to provide the chimps the same love and affection again since she left. Their only source of comfort and genuine care was gone, it was like going back to zero again for them.

After over 20 years, someone’s back!

Yes, Koebner went back to the sanctuary where she got the chance to meet the remaining chimps. Although she was worried if they’d still remember her or not.

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She went on and asked the chimps, “Do you still remember me?” Swing flashed a sweet smile, a gesture that somehow meant a “yes”. Two decades may have passed but the beautiful memories of them together were still there.

The chimps obviously missed their caretaker, the first person who showed them genuine love and care.

Their reunion made Koebner emotional that she wasn’t able to hold her tears back. They gave each other the sweetest hugs and it was a moment they all wished to last a lifetime.

But for Koebner, it’s not her who helped the chimpanzees but them teaching her a lot of life lessons.

“Chimpanzees have provided us so much in this world,” Koebner says in the documentary. “So much knowledge about ourselves, about our social lives, about our dispositions, because they are so much like us as beings.”

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“These chimpanzees have taught me about resilience. All of them have gone through such tremendous adversity, and yet they’re forgiving and they’re whole again,” she added.

It’s true that oftentimes, animals will teach humans how to be humans.

Make sure to watch their emotional reunion in the video below.

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By Michael Dabu
hi@sbly.com
Michael Dabu is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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