The matriarch of the Royal Burgers Zoo chimpanzee community, Mama, has grown old and is in failing health.
She is refusing to eat or drink and lies alone snuggled in her bed of hay with a blanket under her head. At the age of 59,
she is not expected to live much longer. She is the oldest member of her community at the famous zoo in the Netherlands.
She is listless and weak and there appears to be nothing anyone can do to even comfort her.
The co-founder of the Burger’s chimpanzee colony, Jan van Hoof, now old himself, comes to visit Mama.
The elderly chimpanzee showed no signs of interest when Jan first arrived. Jan gently rubbed Mama’s shoulder and arm,
and began to talk to her softly while offering her food. She was lethargic and without emotion, too weak to sit up or take the food he offered.
As he stroked her arm she slowly rolled her head over and saw Jan’s face. Mama lit up! She immediately started grunting and
hooping and showed him how happy she was to see him. He responded with smiles and kind, loving words. She reached up with
one hand to touch his face. She appeared to be smiling and couldn’t stop touching his head and face. Jan was pleased to have these last
moments with his good friend. Mama took the food that Jan was offering her. There was a wordless conversation between them
and they both smiled at the other’s response. Jan snuggled in closely with his old friend and gave her kisses and hugs. Mama responded
in kind and loved him back with her grunts and touching of his face. She rubbed his arms like he was doing to her. Jan was the only person
that Mama would respond to. He was her longtime friend and the main reason she was at this zoo. The two of them had a bond that would never be broken.
The mutual respect between them was astonishing. The emotion of the moment showed on both of their faces and radiated nothing but pure joy.
Mama didn’t live much longer after Jan had visited her. Though it was a sad day for the entire community and Jan especially,
they all found great peace in knowing that in her final days she was loved and comforted by her old friend. Rest in forever love Mama.
You are greatly missed.