A leisurely day at the Detroit Zoo took quite the unexpected turn. Two chimpanzees were hamming it up for the spectators, having a ball chasing each other around their enclosure.
One onlooker stood directly in front of the exhibit, and he couldn’t believe what happened next. Rick Swope watched in mortified shock as one of the primates struggled for his life.
As the chimps chased each other through the trees, one made a sharp turn that caused him to slip and fall.
Where he landed was the problem. A deep moat surrounds the Chimpanzee exhibit, and the chimp apparently wasn’t much of a swimmer. The poor primate couldn’t keep his head above water, yet no one on the zoo staff attempted to help him.
While it is unclear why the zookeepers didn’t try to save the chimp in their care, Rick Swope stepped up immediately. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Swope said the drowning chimp was the most pitiful thing he’d ever seen.
“This chimp had his hands up and his head was sticking out of the water. He was looking at he crowd. It was like he wanted someone to rescue him.”
That was all it took for Rick to risk his own safety to save the chimp.
He climbed the tall fence, leaped into the enclosure, and dove in after him. The water in the moat was too murky for Rick to see underwater so he swam around, attempting to feel for the unfortunate animal.
The crowd of spectators played an important role in the rescue. When Swope couldn’t locate the chimpanzee, he looked to them for help. The people in the crowd could see what was going on and pointed the hero in the right direction. He swam to the bottom and was finally able to locate the chimp and pull him out of the water.
“He was pretty lifeless but you could see he was still alive,” Swope told the Chicago Tribune. “He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on. The monkey never made any attempt to do anything to me.”
Rick wasn’t exactly sure what to do next. He was contemplating whether or not he should try to give the chimp mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but decided against it when the other chimpanzee ran down the hill toward him, baring his teeth. Swope took that as his cue to get out of there.
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