Although jumping into a zoo enclosure can be deadly, in this particular instance, it saved a life.
During a visit to the Detroit Zoo in 1990, truck driver Rick Swope did something no one else would do.
As Swope stood with his wife and three children observing the chimp exhibit, a fight broke out between a chimp named Jo-Jo and another male.
Jo-Jo tried to escape the more aggressive chimp, but when he did, he fell into a deep moat. Since chimps are unable to swim, Jo-Jo was unable to get out of the water, and it could have been deadly. Swope, who was 5’10 and 200-pounds gave no thought to his own safety, and jumped in and grabbed the 135-pound animal.
“It was the most pitiful thing I ever saw,” Swope told the . “This chimp had his hands up and his head was sticking out of the water. He was looking at the crowd. It was like he wanted someone to rescue him.”
On his first try, he lost his grip on the chimp in the 5-feet deep water, and zoo workers warned him to get out, while visitors cheered him on. “People . . . were showing me which direction he was in,” Swope recalled. “The water was so dirty you couldn't see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally I found him.”
Swope pulled the chimp onto the shore, and lifted him over a cable designed to keep chimps from slipping in the water. “He was pretty lifeless, but you could see he was still alive. He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on,” Swope said.
Luckily, the monkey never any attempt to harm Swope, and got out of the enclosure before the more aggressive monkey could get to him. When asked after the incident why Swope decided to jump in and save Jo-Jo, he 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?’”
Jane Goodall goes on to say that Jo-Jo’s life was filled with hardship, having been taken from the wild after his mother was killed by poachers. “[But] if you see that look with your eyes, and you feel it in your heart, you have to jump in and try to help,” she said.