Chimps are among the closest ‘relatives’ of humans in the animal kingdom. Not only do they bear similarities to humans in terms of appearance, they also have similar emotional and cognitive abilities as those in the human species.
So, it is not really surprising that chimps can develop strong friendship bonds with the humans they interact with.
One such friendship developed between a chimp named Mama and behavioral biology professor Jan van Hooff, the co-founder of her colony at Royal Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
Mama is the matriarch of her colony. Because Jan spent long years interacting with the chimps at the colony as part of his research, he and Mama developed a strong friendship that would last until Mama’s eventual death from old age.
They have known each other since 1972. So, when Jan heard the news that Mama is dying and has been refusing food or water for days, he immediately flew back to the Netherlands to visit his friend and pay his last respects.
Someone thought of capturing the reunion on video – and it was a good thing he did so.
At first, Mama was shown refusing food and any liquid the zoo staff tried to give her. She lay curled on her bed, mostly likely wishing these ‘pesky’ humans would leave her alone and let her die in peace but their tried their best to keep her alive, coaxing her to take in something so she might become healthy again.
When Jan arrived, the 59-year-chimp didn’t recognize him immediately – and that was understandable, of course. But when she finally recognizes his voice and his face, the next moments were so sweet.
Mama gave a huge, toothless grin as she realized her long-time friend came to visit. She made motions to hug him and pat him on the back, much like what humans do!
It was certainly a beautiful moment. She died a week later but for sure she was in peace, knowing she had embraced a good friend one last time…
Watch the emotional moment here: