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
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.