Jan van Hooff, emeritus professor behavioral biology at Utrecht University and the co-founder of the Burgers colony, has known Mama the chimpanzee since 1972.
He was once her caretaker and they became lifelong friends.
So, when the 59-year-old chimp’s life was coming to an end Hooff made sure to visit her and say goodbye. Mama was the oldest chimpanzee and the matriarch of the chimpanzee colony at Royal Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
She was said to have played an important social role in the colony, a phenomenon described by Frans de Waal as “Chimpanzee Politics.”
Mama had become gravely ill so Hooff came to visit her about a week before she died of old age.
Mama was very old and wasn’t feeling well at all. She was refusing to eat or drink and would just lay still in the fetal position.
She was in a completely lethargic state but eventually, she realized that Hooff was there.
Her reaction to seeing her old friend was incredibly heartwarming.
Her face erupted into a giant smile when Hooff called out her name. She cried out in joy at the sight of her friend and grabbed for his hand.
She just smiled and cooed and pet his head. The look on her face was so beautiful.
She just smiled and looked up into his eyes and would pat him on the back of the head. She then reached up to hug him.
Once she realized he was there, she immediately remembered Hooff and was so happy to see him. Chimpanzees can quickly identify the faces of humans and other chimps, according to Live Science.
“Both humans and chimpanzees have developed a specialized ability for face processing,” Masaki Tomonaga, a primatologist and comparative cognitive scientist at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute in Japan, told Live Science. “This implies that the face plays a very important social role in both species. These results are quite suggestive when considering the evolution of social intelligence. Both species may use facial information for their social lives in the same manner.”
But Mama only had so much energy to expend.
Eventually, she grew tired again and had to lay back down.
But surely the visit from her old friend was a great comfort to her in her final days. Watch the video below to see Mama’s heartwarming reaction to seeing Hooff again.
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Source: Jan A R A M van Hooff