We share our planet with fascinating flora and fauna, but most of us are somehow deeply related to animals. However, not many of us would risk their own life just to save an animal!
Well, Rick Swope would!
Back in 1990, the 33-year-old truck driver from Cement City, Mich., came to see a newly opened Chimps of Harambe exhibit in Detroit together with his wife and three children, to enjoy the day and watch the playful chimps.
However, two of the chimpanzees started fighting near the water, and as the smaller one, Jo-Jo, ran towards the trees, the larger and more aggressive one followed him.
He caught up with Jo-Jo and Jo-Jo fell into the water while trying to escape. Chimps can’t swim, so he was desperate!
The crows watched as the chimp kept disappearing under the water, and it was evident that something had to be done as fast as possible!
At this point, Rick decided to act.
He later explained that it was “ the most pitiful thing” he has ever seen, the chimp was with the hands up, and the “head sticking out of the water”, staring at the crowd.
Rick felt like he wanted someone to rescue him. He ran toward the edge of the exhibit. The staff warned him that the apes can get very aggressive, but he ignored them and jumped into the water.
He swam to Jo-Jo, but on his first try, he lost his grip on the chimp in water 5 feet deep.
”People . . . were showing me which direction he was in. The water was so dirty you couldn’t see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally, I found him.”
He eventually grabbed him by his left arm. Jo-Jo was clearly terrified, but Rick was determined to get him out of the water.
When they reached the edge of the water, Rick gave Jo-Jo a push to get him up to the grass.
“When I finally got him up the bank and I could hold him up there, he wasn’t moving. He was lifeless, but he was looking at me when I got him turned around, so I knew he was alive.”
The crowd yelled at him to stay with the ape and make sure he is alright, but some other chimp was already on his way to Rick.
He swam as fast as possible and climbed out the border of the exhibit. He later explained that people were just “ standing around and watching this monkey drown”, so he had to do something.
While news of the rescue spread fast, the act of the courageous man impressed Jane Goodall as well.
She remembered a conversation her institute’s then-director had with Swope afterward:
“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?’”
Goodall explained that Jo-Jo has been taken from the wild after poachers killed his mother.
“If you see that look with your eyes, and you feel it in your heart, you have to jump in and try to help.”
And this hero felt the same!