Mama the chimpanzee is 59 years old and for most chimps, these are the twilight years of their lives. She had lost the ability to consume food or water and was merely looking away to pass away in peace. After having been born in the wild, she was eventually transported to a zoo in the Netherlands. It did not take her to become a force to be reckoned with. According to her caretakers, she soon became the dominant matriarch in her colony.
She also became very famous. Now, her illness had left her bedridden. Mama knew that she was nearing the end of her life and the rest of her colony agreed with this assessment. The chimps had already said their goodbyes to one another and Mama seemed ready to head off to a better place. Jan van Hooff, a professor had been befriended Mama, had yet to bid the chimp adieu before the big sleep.
They had known each other since 1972 and Jan is responsible for co-founding the colony where Mama resides. A week before her passing, he stopped in for a visit. The animal was initially too weak to recognize the man’s presence. Once Jan spoke to the animal in hushed tones, she took notice. All it took was the sound of a familiar voice to change Mama’s whole demeanor.
The chimp went from being frail and sick to being emotional and excited. As the memories of her friendship with Jan came flooding back, she was overwhelmed with happiness. She grinned at Jan and the old friends shared a warm embrace. Just try and watch this special moment without having to dab away any tears. It is essentially impossible!
Jan was able to pay Mama a visit just before her passing last May. He arrived in the nick of time, as the zoo would soon be left to mourn the loss of the Netherlands’ oldest captive chimpanzee. Mama was considered to be the grand lady at this colony and her strong personality kept men from being able to come to power in her presence.
She was also well known for being able to step in and settle various conflicts. We would like to send our deepest condolences to all of those whose lives have been touched by Mama. She is going to be sorely missed. Please share this story with your closest friends and loved ones, so that she can always live on in our memories.