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Compassion: The Chimpanzee Who Saved a Life
The Chimpanzee Who Saved a Life
Three infant chimpanzees

The chimpanzee named Old Man was not really old; he just looked older. Perhaps this was because of his earlier life. When he was two years old living in Africa, his mother was killed and he was shipped to North America to spend the next ten years of his life in a biomedical research lab. When he was twelve, he was retired to a zoo. His caregiver Marc Cusano was told to be careful. Old Man hated people and would try to kill him. But slowly, Marc began to build a relationship with Old Man, giving him bananas and grooming him. One day, Marc slipped and startled one of the chimpanzee babies. The baby screamed and instantly the mother raced over and bit Marc’s neck. Two other chimpanzees ran to help – one bit his leg, the other his wrist. Suddenly Marc saw Old Man thundering toward him, hair bristling in rage, coming to protect his baby. Instead, Old Man pulled the other chimpanzees off Marc and kept them away while Marc dragged himself to safety. To Dr. Jane, this story is very symbolic. Old Man was a chimpanzee who had been abused by humans all his life. Yet, he helped a human in a time of great need. It is Dr. Jane’s hope that humans, with their more sophisticated brains and greater capacity to understand suffering, can reach out now to those animals who need help so desperately.

If you want to read more stories of compassion, The Ten Trusts by Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Marc Bekoff is full of stories that blur the line between humans and other animals.

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