A zoo enclosure is a space where an animal is kept on display. Whenever the boundary of a zoo enclosure is breached, we all know it leads to dangerous consequences, however, many years ago, it saved a life.
The year was 1990, and a 33-year old truck driver, Rick Swope, visited the Detroit Zoo with his wife and his three children.
Right as he was looking at the ape division, a fight broke out between an 18-year-old chimp named Jojo and another male.
Jojo tried to escape but fell into a deep moat. As most chimps can't swim, Jojo was helpless in the water. Rick knew he had to do something. He told the Deseret News:
”Everyone in the whole place was just standing around watching this monkey drown."
Although Rick was warned by the zookeeper to keep away from the animals, he climbed the 4-foot security wall and went after a 135-pound Jojo, saving his life and not minding that he was risking his own.
Of course, news of his gallantry spread far and wide, and a primatologist named Jane Goodall, who had spent most of her life working with chimpanzees, was particularly impressed by Rick’s actions.
In 2005, while speaking to the crowd at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, she mentioned a conversation her institute’s then-director had with Rick after his save.
The director asked Rick how he was able to muster the courage to save Jojo, and he said:
“I happened to look into his eyes, and it was like looking into the eyes of a man, and the message was, 'Won't anybody help me?'"
Goodall also said Jojo had been through a lot in life, as his mother had been a victim of poaching. However, Rick’s gesture restored Jojo’s faith in humanity.
Though Rick hasn't been available for comment, even nearly three decades later, his actions still prove there are good people out in the world.
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