Professor Jan van Hooff, an emeritus professor of behavioral biology at Utrecht University, has known Mama the chimpanzee since 1972. He was actually the one who co-founded the colony she was a matriarch to. It was the first colony raised in a zoo and was at the same time a subject of research on primate behavior that has been described in “Chimpanzee Politics” by Frans de Waal, who studied the colony since 1974.
But now, at the age of 59, Mama was about to leave this world and she refused the food and the water the people from the zoo offered to her. It seemed like she could sense the end was near. The employees of the Royal Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands, where Mama was located, made a call that changed the last week of the chimps’ life. They contacted her caretaker, professor Van Hooff who didn’t hesitate to come and say one last goodbye to his long time friend. The encounter turned out to be one of the sweetest and most heart-warming interactions between a human and an animal.
When Mr. Van Hooff arrived at the zoo he saw Mama laying curled up in a ball unable to lift her head. At first she wasn’t aware of the professor’s presence, but once she recognized his voice she regained her strength for a short time and the result of the meeting is something unbelievably moving.
Mama passed away one week after she got to say goodbye to her friend, but before she met her end she taught us a valuable lesson about love and emotions. If you ever doubted animals’ ability to feel sadness, affection, and devotion this touching moment caught on this video will put those doubts to rest.