Humans have a natural connection to the animal kingdom. Many of us enjoy caring for animals, but there are few who would risk their lives in order to save a furry friend. Meet a man who takes the term “animal lover” to a whole new level.
Rick Swope brought his wife and three children to the newly opened chimpanzee exhibit in Detroit, Michigan for a fun day of entertainment and excitement. Together they looked on to the Chimps of Harambe exhibit expecting to watch playful chimp games. As they explored the new display, the family got more excitement than they bargained for.
Two chimps were caught in a skirmish on the grass near the water. One chimp, Jo-Jo, was much smaller than the other one. Within moments Jo-Jo decided to make a break toward the trees. The larger, more aggressive chimp followed him.
Jo-Jo jumped up as the other male reached him. Jo-Jo tried to escape, but he fell feet-first into the water-filled moat inside the exhibit. He was completely in the water and in desperate need of help. Because chimps can’t swim, Jo-Jo’s only hope was for someone to come and rescue him.
The crowd watched in horror as Jo-Jo dipped below the surface of the water. He made it back up, but it was clear that the chimp could not swim to the edge. When he slipped under the water again, everyone knew something had to be done.
The staff were frozen in place, but Rick swung into action. He immediately headed toward the border of the exhibit. The staff cautioned him not to enter because apes can be extremely aggressive and territorial. Ignoring these warnings and the apparent danger, Rick jumped into the moat to save Jo-Jo.
Without hesitation Rick swam up to the chimp and grabbed him with his left arm. He used his right arm and legs to propel them both forward through the water. Jo-Jo hung limp in Rick’s arms, terrified at the thought of being trapped in the water.
As the two reached the edge of the water, Rick pushed Jo-Jo as far as he could up the grassy bank. For a moment it seemed like Jo-Jo might fall back into the water, but Rick helped him get all the way onto the grass. Jo-Jo was safe at last.
“When I finally got him up the bank and I could hold him up there, he wasn’t moving,” Rick later explained on Animal Planet. “He was lifeless, but he was looking at me when I got him turned around, so I knew he was alive.”
With the drowning chimp rescued, Rick realized he had his own safety to worry about. Even chimp experts are reluctant to cross into a chimp’s territory, and Rick was right in the middle of the danger zone. The man was forced to ignore the pleas of the crowd to stay with Jo-Jo as he recovered from his traumatic experience. The other chimp was already making his way toward Rick.
He swam as fast as he could back to the border and climbed out of the exhibit. He was a hero for his daring rescue of the helpless chimp. Rick had felt called to action as he had watched Jo-Jo’s situation unfold.
“Everyone in the whole place was just standing around and watching this monkey drown,” he explained to the Desert News. “When he went down the second time I knew I had to do something.”
Rick’s daring exploit and humble behavior prove that this man is a true hero. He didn’t even think twice about risking his own life for that of the chimp. Rick revealed his bravery and love of animals to everyone.
It is heartwarming to see that someone would risk so much to help an animal in need.
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