20 September 2006


Extract from "Jane Goodall Explores the Links Between Conservation and Human Health", Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 11 April 2005.

I wanted to share one last story [in her presentation]. It's about a chimpanzee who was born in Africa, whose mother was shot when he was about two years old, because there used to be a strong trade in live animals, and chimpanzees were taken from the wild by shooting the mother for entertainment and zoos and medical research and what have you.

He was shipped to a North American zoo where he was named Jo-Jo, and for about 15 years he lived by himself in a small old-fashioned zoo cage with a cement floor and iron bars. Then a new zoo director decided to build a large enclosure, and he bought 19 other chimps. The enclosure was surrounded by a moat filled with water because chimps don't swim.

Then one of the new young males decides to challenge the senior male. Well, the senior male is Jo-Jo. You have to learn how to behave from your society and Jo-Jo hadn't had the opportunity. He was so little when he was captured. So when this young male starts swaggering and bristling, and standing upright and hurling rocks, and looking very intimidating, Jo-Jo is absolutely terrified, and he runs into the water because he doesn't know anything about water either.

He manages in his fear to get over the barrier that is built to prevent the chimps from drowning in the deep water beyond. Three times he comes up gasping for breath, and then he is gone. On the other side of the moat is a little group of people, not many, because it was cold and wet. There was a keeper, who knew that Jo-Jo weighed 130 pounds and that male chimps are much stronger than us and can be dangerous, so he ran off to get a stick to try to pull Jo-Jo out of the water.

But luckily for Jo-Jo there was a man who visits the zoo one day a year with his wife and his three little girls, and he jumped in. In spite of a keeper grabbing onto him, saying that he would be killed, he pulled away. He had to swim under the water. He felt Jo-Jo's body, and he got this 130-pound dead weight over his shoulder. He managed to get over that barrier and he could feel small movements. Jo-Jo wasn't dead yet. And so he pushes him up onto the bank of the enclosure and then turns to re-join his slightly hysterical family.

Well, there was a woman there with a video camera, so you see and hear what happened next although the camera is all over the place because the woman did not even realize she was filming. The people on the banks suddenly start screaming at Rick to hurry back, that he is going to be killed, because they can see from their higher vantage points three of the big males coming down to see what all the commotion is about. At the same time, Jo-Jo is sliding back into the water because the bank is too steep.

This film, which is all over the place, suddenly steadies on Rick and you see him standing there. He's got one hand on that railing and you see him look up at his wife and children, and you see him looking up at these three males, and then you see him looking down at Jo-Jo, who is just going under the water again. For a moment he is motionless, and then he went back.

And again, he pushed Jo-Jo up and continued to push him, ignoring the approaching chimps, ignoring the screaming people. Jo-Jo is desperately struggling to grab onto something. Just in time, he gets hold of a thick tuft of grass, and with Rick pushing, manages to get onto the level ground. And just in time, Rick get back over that barrier.

That evening, that little piece of video was flashed across North America and the then-director of [Jane Goodall Institute] USA saw it. He called up Rick Swope and he said, "That was a very brave thing you did. You must have known it was dangerous. Everyone was telling you. What made you do it?" And Rick said, "Well, you see, 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?'"

And you see, that is the message I have seen in the little chimps tied up in the marketplace that led to our sanctuaries. I've seen it looking out from the eyes of the chimps in the 5 foot-by-5 foot prisons of the medical research labs. I've seen it looking out from under the frills of the cruelly trained circus chimps, and the eyes of chained elephants, and dogs thrown out. I've seen it in the eyes of little children who have seen their parents killed in the ethnic violence in Africa. And in the eyes of kids caught up in street violence with nowhere to go.

If you see that look with your eyes, and you feel it in your heart, you have to jump in and try to help. Although the world today perhaps has more problems, more danger than ever before, I do believe it's true that there are more people, more little NGOs and special interest groups, more than ever before. Everywhere we have one of these problems, there is sure to be a group of people, or even one person giving so much, to try and put that problem right. And that is where I feel hope.